Prosecutors in Azerbaijan raided and shut down the Baku offices of U.S.-funded Radio Azadliq, the local arm of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, on Friday, as part of a crackdown on media outlets within the country's borders.
Servers, cameras and documents were reportedly confiscated while the offices were searched, according to the AFP. The searches were part of an investigation into the news outlet and its compliance with Azeri laws, which restrict the funding of non-governmental organizations by foreign entities.
“The order comes from the top as retaliation for our reporting and as a thuggish effort to silence RFE/RL,” Nenad Pejic, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty editor-in-chief, said in a press release. “This is not the first time that a regime has sought to silence us, and we will continue our work to support Azeris' basic right of free access to information and to report the news to audiences that need it.”
Reporters Without Borders condemned the crackdown by prosecutors.
“Words fail for describing the scale of the crackdown under way in Azerbaijan,” Johann Bihr, of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement. “President Ilham Aliyev’s government is methodically crushing each of the remaining independent news outlets one by one. International bodies and Azerbaijan’s foreign partners need to respond firmly to such determined ruthlessness.”
The raid comes after an investigative reporter who worked for Radio Azadliq, Khadija Ismayilova, was arrested and jailed earlier in December.
“This move has all the hallmarks of another blatant attempt to gag free media in Azerbaijan – Khadija Ismayilova is one of the last remaining independent voices in the country,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia program director, said, lambasting the move.
Radio Azadliq joins several NGOs, which have faced increased pressure from the Azerbaijan government in recent months, including Oxfam, the National Democratic Institute and IREX, according to the BBC.