The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling for a full investigation into the most recent attack on an exiled Azerbaijani video blogger who has been critical of the government in Baku.
The CPJ said Mirzali was attacked on March 14 by six men while walking in downtown Nantes in western France. He was stabbed at least 16 times and is currently in the hospital with severe injuries.
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“French authorities should swiftly investigate the knife attack on exiled Azerbaijani blogger Mahammad Mirzali, find the perpetrators and those who ordered it, and bring them to justice,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “French authorities must ensure that Mirzali and other exiled bloggers and journalists can exercise their right of free expression without having to fear for their lives.”
Mirzali, whose YouTube channel has 265,000 subscribers and covers opposition to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, corruption, and other issues, fled his homeland in 2016 due to his political activism in the authoritarian Caucasus state.
The attack was the latest incident targeting the blogger and his family, raising concerns it was carried out to silence a critical voice.
The CPJ reported that earlier this year that an anonymous person tried to blackmail Mirzali over WhatsApp, threatening to release intimate photos of his sister and her husband if the blogger didn’t stop his activities. When Mirzali didn’t comply, the photos were released.
In another serious incident in October, unknown men shot at Mirzali in Nantes in an apparent assassination attempt.
In October 2018, Mirzali’s father and brother-in-law in Azerbaijan were detained for one and six days, respectively. Police reportedly told the two men to pressure Mirzali to stop his criticism of the government.
Azerbaijan has one of the world’s worst media landscapes, ranking 168 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index.