A leading pro-democracy group has responded to allegations of bias and misleading reporting by President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan. The regime attacked Freedom House for its reporting on its growing authoritarianism and tightening restrictions on civil society.
“President Aliyev is the person most responsible for Azerbaijan’s appalling human rights record of the last decade, including the baseless of imprisonment of civil society activists and efforts to stifle all political dissent,” said Daniel Calingaert, Freedom House’s acting president. “Aliyev has remained in power thanks to sham elections while family members have enriched themselves. Freedom House will continue to do its work of bringing greater attention to his government’s abuses.”
Freedom House came under attack from Azerbaijan’s delegation to the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Europe’s largest annual human rights conference, organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
Activists last week told a U.S. congressional panel that Azerbaijan’s government has stepped up repression of journalists, civil society activists, and human rights workers ahead of a key referendum scheduled for September 26 that will strengthen Aliyev’s authority, extend the length of presidential terms, and drop the minimum age for future presidential candidates, RFE/RL reports.
The authorities have effectively banned independent civil society actors from exercising their rights, said the Human Rights House Foundation. Space for civil society to participate in public life has shrunk drastically in countries across Europe, and many States have adopted legislation that limits the ability of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to work or receive funding, it said in a statement at the UN Human Rights Council.
Addressing the OSCE event, Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, expressed concern about crackdowns on civil society in Russia, Azerbaijan and countries in central Asia.
“They are also pursuing policies that will almost certainly fail,” , he said.
Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2015, and receives a democracy score of 6.86 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.