Fast Facts about Azerbaijan:
Azerbaijan is a republic located in the Caucus region that sits on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Formerly a part of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan is now run by a government that has been accused of human rights violations and widespread corruption, and is often times referred to as authoritarian. Although they don’t have an official religion, a majority of the population identify with Shia Islam and the economy is centered around petroleum and oil. Azerbaijan boasts a 100% youth literacy rate and a continually decreasing poverty rate of 5.3% (source).
Why is Azerbaijan a hostile environment for journalists?
According to Newsweek, Azerbaijan is one of the top ten most dangerous countries for journalists in addition to having a bad track record when it comes to detaining journalists. Groups such as Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, and the Committee to Protect Journalists have all published reports condemning the deteriorating conditions for press and media. In fact, according to the World Press Freedom Index, Azerbaijan ranks 160 out of 180 countries in regards to conflicts on freedom of information. Azerbaijan has been known for imprisoning journalists investigating corruption in the government, human rights supporters, as well as political opposition reporters.
Additionally, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan in respect to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have flared up recently and dozens of soldiers from both armies have been killed.
Why did I choose Azerbaijan as my focus?
As an international studies student focused on the Middle East, I decided to search around to see which countries around my area of study have a distinct lack of freedom of press. I’m also taking History 480, called Conflict and Diplomacy in the Caucuses, so to kill two birds with one stone I decided to choose a country in the Caucuses to explore their freedom of press as well as stay up to date with conflicts and news. Additionally, my dad works for the World Bank and some of his projects used to be centered in the Caucus region and he travelled there all the time. I thought it would be cool to explore and learn about his “old haunts” and understand why his work was so important.