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Baku Deports TV Crew That was Making a Film on Human Rights

My Rohwedder Street, Charlie Laprevote, and Charlotta Wijkström with Swedish public broadcaster Sveriges Television were detained during the protest rallies at Sahil Park in downtown Baku on Sunday, Apr. 17.

According to an Apr. 18 statement issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the men in plainclothes who detained the reporters did not identify themselves as they took them to the Sabail District police department in Baku, then transferred them to the headquarters of Azerbaijan’s Migration Service, the local press reported. The men also confiscated their digital cameras and erased all existing footage from their memory cards, international press reported.

The crew members were reportedly told that they were missing press accreditation documents that they allegedly needed to work in Azerbaijan, according to CPJ sources. The journalists, however, had received valid journalist visas from the Azerbaijani Embassy in Stockholm, Rohwedder Street told the independent Caucasus news website Kavkazsky Uzel. Rohwedder Street said that she and her colleagues officially informed the Azerbaijani authorities of the purpose of their visit when they applied for the visas.

Around 6 pm Baku time on Apr. 18, all three reporters were deported from Azerbaijan to Turkey, Mehman Aliyev, director of the Baku-based independent news agency Turan, told CPJ. According to the Azeri Press Agency, a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said today that the ministry had investigated the incident with the Swedish crew and concluded that the journalists had to be deported because they did not have press accreditation.

The Swedish television crew had arrived in Baku to film a documentary on human rights and freedom of speech.

“We arrived in Baku on Friday at the invitation of Radio Liberty [RFE/RL] and were preparing to make a film about human rights in Azerbaijan. Prior to my arrival I contacted the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to request that officials give us interviews for this film,” said My Rohwedder Street, speaking to Turan news agency.

According to Rohwedder Street, they were not formally charged by the Migration Service. All complaints were made verbally and without any concrete facts. “You have violated the visa regime and that’s all,” the reporters were told.

Note, the Norwegian Embassy in Azerbaijan, which also represents the interests of Sweden in the country, has not yet received an official explanation of the reasons for deporting the three Swedish journalists.