The authorities said they were investigating some &# 171; felony&# 187;
Jeff Schell, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) under the US administration, called on the Azerbaijani authorities to allow the Azerbaijani bureau of Radio Liberty to immediately resume work.
“These illegal actions are an escalation of attempts by the Azerbaijani authorities to intimidate independent journalists and suppress free media,” Shell said..
BBG coordinates broadcasting of Radio Liberty and Voice of America.
A senior US State Department official said the United States was “deeply concerned” about reports that Radio Liberty Baku employees were detained and interrogated and their office was ransacked..
State Department called on “responsible authorities” to respect Azerbaijan’s “international commitment to protect media freedom”.
Searches were held at the office of the Azerbaijan Service “Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty” in Baku on Friday. At the same time, representatives of the authorities ordered everyone to stop working and said that they had a court decision to close the bureau..
Nenad Pejic, editor-in-chief of Radio Liberty, called the raid on the company’s Baku office “a flagrant violation of every international obligation made by Azerbaijan.”.
In a comment to the Voice of America, Pejic said that representatives of the prosecutor’s office seized the documentation and interrogated the members of the editorial board until late in the evening..
The bureau also cut off internal telephones and the Internet. About 20 employees were brought into one room, they were forbidden to approach computers and leave the premises.
At the same time, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan reported that the searches are related to the investigation of a “grave crime”, but did not go into details..
Earlier this month, one of the station’s leading journalists, Khadija Ismailov, was arrested. She has been charged with driving to suicide, but critics say her arrest is a clear attempt by the authorities to silence an influential journalist..
Raid of Radio Liberty office in Baku
Jeff Schell in his statement called for the release of Ismailova.
Ismayilova’s arrest was just another link in the chain of arrests, detentions, searches and court hearings against Azerbaijani bloggers, journalists and prominent activists, including Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif.
Observers describe these events as “the most serious and brutal repression against civil society” since Baku took over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in May this year..
News Service &# 171; Voices of America&# 187;