Center for Investigative Journalism filed a complaint to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, after the team of CIJM was intimidated by an employee of the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan for having displayed a banner on the balcony of its office, located in the immediate vicinity of the diplomatic mission. The team of CIJM is solidary with the journalist Khadija Ismayilova, sentenced to seven years and six months in prison.
In the request submitted to the ministry, we asked to be informed about how employees of embassies accredited in Chisinau meet the diplomatic norms, mainly limiting freedom of speech of Moldovan citizens, of press and of NGOs in our country. Also, we asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration to take note of violation of right to freedom of expression, provided both by national legislation and the international one.
"By displaying the banner, we made use of a legal right – freedom of speech. So we expressed our attitude to undemocratic practices accepted in relation to investigative journalists in Azerbaijan. Khadija is the journalist who conducted several investigations and revealed dubious schemes, including the removal of gold from the country, involving members of the presidential family in Azerbaijan, and by that she became undesirable. Links of presidential family relate to Panama. Khadija revealed all this information much before Panama Papers ", says Cornelia Cozonac, president of the Center for Investigative Journalism.
"The way which was used by the Embassy of Azerbaijan to intimidate us, to talk us down should not be overlooked by the authorities of the Republic of Moldova because it can create a dangerous precedent. Probably, he acted like in his country; he tried to intimidate us directly. The fact that he did it in Moldova shows that the situation in our country allows it. I do not think such a thing could happen in an EU country where laws rule, there is rule of law, the freedom of expression is respected and is a value. We are not scared by the attempt of the employee of the Embassy to intimidate us, but we think that we must not tolerate such behavior, especially that he benefits from facilities provided by Moldova", commented Cornelia Cozonac.
Team of the Center for Investigative Journalism voiced solidarity with the journalist Khadija Ismayilova, sentenced to seven years and six months in prison. The Center displayed on Thursday, April 21, a banner on the balcony of its office, located right next to the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Moldova, demanding her release. We have been forced to abandon this form of protest and to remove the banner on Friday, April 22, at the request of the owner of the building where the office of the Center is placed. Soon, the man who refused to introduce himself, but who claimed to be a representative of the embassy of Azerbaijan in Chisinau, came to CIJM's office insisting to remove the banner and disclose the author of the idea, the person or company who executed this order. The official threatened us openly and repeatedly and said that we would have big problems.
The Center for Investigative Journalism issued a statement and called on the investigation bodies to settle this incident. We asked the media NGOs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration and development partners of the Republic of Moldova to take note of this case. Also, we asked the Embassy of Azerbaijan to confirm or deny the delegation of a representative to the CIJM office to ask removal of the banner.