Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Young journalist suffers consequences for rocking boat
Parviz was one of my best students while I was in Azerbaijan. He was the only one of my students to actually produce articles about corruption in the nation's education system. I had quite a few students who spoke about it - but naturally it was a very daunting subject to tackle. Many of my students were still studying at universities - so really digging into this subject could be dangerous for their academic careers.
As it was for Parviz.
When he first suggested writing about corruption at the university, I cautioned him about taking on the subject. To do it right would be difficult, and would certainly anger important people. Nonetheless, he was resolute - and for his final project he wrote both blog entries and a long newspaper article on the subject - an article that named names. I was more nervous than he about publishing the article.
I don't think it was one article that caused the university to finally kick him out. Parviz is one of those students that is challenging or infuriating, depending on your perspective. Once he grabbed hold of an issue, he didn't let go - the mark of really excellent journalist. This time, Parviz obviously infuriated enough people at the university to close that door to him.
He has great talent and energy - so I don't worry about him finding some position that suits his interests. But to be honest, I do worry about his personal safety. Azerbaijan is a dangerous place for journalists who challenge the system. A number of journalists have been mysteriously assaulted and murdered in Azerbaijan in recent years. Currently, Uzbekistan is the only European or Central Asian country that has more journalists behind bars than Azerbaijan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Here is the little news item a friend sent me from a Yahoo group. I include it verbatim.
Parviz Azimov was expeled from University
Pressures to the Head of the South Regional office of Dalga Youth Movement
The head of the south regional office of Dalga Youth Movement Parviz Azimov has faced various prosecution and pressure by university authorities due to his articles and current acitivities. Finally, on February 27th he was expeled from Lankaran State University with false accusation. We would like to remind that, Parviz Azimov studies at the fourth grade at above-mentioned university and has not had any problems so far. University authorities, who could not find any evidences about his education, orginazed false sabotage against him. They accused him in alleged fight at the university and expeled him.
As Dalga Youth Movement we urgently request to stop this illegitimate act, to restore Parviz Azimov’s education at the university, and we want people who organized this sabotage against him apolagize. We state that we will use any possible means to restore justice and to defend Parviz Azimov’s rights. We call everybody to support us in our way of defending the law and human rights. We demand the related organs to fulfill their duties.
(Above is a photo of me presenting Parviz with his certificate at the end our classes. Notice we are both wearing jackets. The classroom was unheated and the average temperature of 40 degrees F. felt more like 33 F.)