Refusing to back down
Labelled a traitor because of the hostile situation between Azeris and Armenians, Geybullayeva has felt unable to return to her country. But despite all her troubles, she has kept on reporting, blogging and tweeting about the social and political situation in Azerbaijan and elsewhere from exile.
Geybullayeva wrote a blog post last month referring to the cases of activists being detained and the families of Babirov and Ali being threatened. In contrast, she noted, stands President Aliyev’s simultaneous appointment of his own wife Mehriban as vice-president.
“It is [a] pretty easy system – you are from the family, you get pampered, you get to do what you want, but if you are not... then it is a whole other story. (…) Yes, it is good to be part of the Aliyev family and be untouchable.”
Meanwhile, Fox-TV Turkey was taken off the air in Azerbaijan for mocking and questioning the president’s wife being made his vice president – the first person to hold that post in the country. In light of Azerbaijan’s situation, the ECPMF has campaigned to get Mehriban Aliyev removed from her role as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Oral and Musical Traditions.
The range of topics that journalists and broadcasters are allowed to discuss in or about Azerbaijan keeps on dwindling, although other journalists have managed to continue their work on Azeri issues from abroad.
Some of them have organised into online platforms, such as Meydan TV. The outlet’s team members live in places like Berlin and Washington, D.C., and bring in a variety of experiences of oppression. Founder Emin Milli told the ECPMF:
The government is treating independent journalists in Azerbaijan as enemies of the people. We or our relatives are jailed, tortured or killed. Our response has always been very peaceful."
Publishing in Azeri, English as well as Russian, Meydan TV aims to “provide a platform for open and diverse discussions on all topical issues concerning Azerbaijani society [and] to build up a thriving independent online multimedia media platform.” The best way to respond to the Azeri regime's persecution is to keep going, Milli added:
"Increasing the audience and expanding in the face of repression is always the best answer to this, and we have done it for the last 4 years. Today we are reaching up to 25% of people in Azerbaijan on a monthly basis."