Thank you dear Azer Hesret (525ci Gazet) and Hikmet Babaoglu (editor in chief of Yeni Azerbaycan newspaper) for making my presentation yesterday in Riga at the World Press Freedom Day so colorful. If it wasn't for your intervention the audience would not experience first hand the theater of absurdity of government apologists who claim Azerbaijan has more freedoms than everyone in this world combined.
Shortly after I finished my presentation on the on-going crackdown in Azerbaijan, and the rest of the panelists completed their presentations, the floor was open to Q&A. Our Azerbaijani colleagues were the first ones to raise their hands. First it was Azer Hesret who took the mic (works for pro-govt media). He said I was lying. That there were no limits on freedom of expression or media. That everything in Azerbaijan was free and that we had no political prisoners.
But the most shocking part was when he said all those bloggers and journalists who are currently in jail, belong there because these are the people who are either trying to overthrow Azerbaijani government or trying to bring radical Islam to the country. He added “its good they are there”.
When the moderator of our panel David asked what was his Azer Hesret’s question to the panelists Azer Hesret said, “I don’t know where you found this girl who pretends to be an expert. Because obviously this young girl doesn’t know what the real situation in Azerbaijan really is.”
I took the mic and the only thing I could say to this was that I was expecting such an intervention.
Then it was Hikmet Babaoglu’s turn (who is editor in chief of basically what is the mouthpiece of Ruling Party - Yeni Azerbaycan). Who confirmed that certainly I was lying. Baboglu also said how would I know anything about Azerbaijan if I don’t even live there. He then on went to accusing me of representing Armenian interests, that because of my collaboration with Agos I was a traitor and so on.
Needless the audience inside the room was appalled. But that didn’t stop them. Emin Emilli who was also in the room took the mic afterwords and thanked both of these gentlemen for making such an important intervention. Thanks to them, we all first handedly experienced the absurdity of the situation in Azerbaijan.
Mr. Hasret accused me before as well on Twitter. When I looked up his twitter account I saw that I have muted him - I guess I did that for a reason.
#WPFD2015 If to believe @arzugeybulla Azerbaijan is something more dangerous than Hitler's Faschismus.— Azer Hasret (@azerhasret) May 2, 2015
The sad thing however is that these two older genltemen were intimidated by a young journalist. Not only that they even were intimidated that I was a female journalist. This would explain their sexist comments and comments questioning their credibility.
What Mr. Hasret and Babaoglu didn't know when they made that valuable intervention is that they actually once again confirmed that people like Khadija, Omar, Rasul, Intigam, Leyla and Arif, Rauf are in jail not because of tax evasion, or abuse of authority or embezzlement or treason but because of their political views.
Well done! Oh and in case you are interested you can see Yeni Azerbaijan paper bashing me here (sorry it is all in Azerbaijani, although it might spare you some nerves ;)