Azerbaijan: Citizen media in defense of detained activists, bloggers

Although most activity can be found on Facebook where users continue to update each other on the case of video blogger Adnan Hajizade and youth activist Emin Milli, detained last week and sentenced to two months pre-trial detention, less activity might be visible in the mainstream media, but the situation is changing. Nevertheless, citizen media remains the main source of information.

In a personal post from the heart, Fighting windmills? Take a pill. remembers her friends now sitting in prison on what most consider to be a politically-motivated charges.

I have a new desktop picture – Emin waving Azerbaijani flag in front of the UN building in New York. The flag of the country he has been working and living for, the one he dreams to be liberated of corruption and dishonest politicians, the one he came back from New York for, the one, he and Adnan will spend at least two months of their lives in jail for..


“Being a dissident is an honor” said one of my Georgian friends, when I told him the whole story. That's pretty much what Emin would say, I thought. And then, imagined what he would do if one of us would get detained.


They say “You can imprison my body, but not my soul”. Indeed, they can take away Emin and Adnan but the love we have for each other will never fade away, no matter what. The purest, unconditional, can't-buy-for-oil-money love, that makes my friends wait for me to become an aunt and make sure I get home safely, the one that made 50 people sing Azerbaijani anthem in front of the Sabail Court. The kind of love, that encourages people all around the world forget about the fear and fight for the freedom of our friends no matter what.


United we stand!

Humay, another friend of Hajizade, also posted a personal note on her Facebook page to mark his birthday.

Now pompous words would sound bitter, but it’s true that it was a privilege to know Adnan so closely. He is indeed of a rare kind. In a conformist land as ours is, Adnan lived according to his own truths, defining himself over and over again with frustrations at a time, but never afraid of challenging himself or others. […]


Adnan, ezizim, you are 26 today. You are celebrating this day behind the bars. Or my guess is you are not celebrating it. But we are celebrating. I am glad that you came into this world and into our lives. I am glad you showed me how much a person can do just by himself. I am glad you proved that one man with beliefs is worth of thousand with interests. I am glad that you dared to dream and took us on a journey too. Please keep on dreaming. I don’t want a requiem for a dream. And please come back. We miss you here.

Meanwhile, Media Helping Media, a non-profit organization which assists journalists and activists in countries such as Azerbaijan, says that blogs and Twitter were crucial in getting word out of Hajizade and Milli's arrest long before the traditional media did.

It took the traditional news wires at least 24 hours to catch up with the coverage of the arrest of two youth movement leaders in Azerbaijan. By that time dozens of blogs had been updated and probably thousands of tweets sent. The news was everywhere; everywhere except on the mainstream media. When the news wires arrived they were reminders of yesterday's news. Probably not too late for the media that feeds off and reproduces the wires, but too late for those who want news as it happens.


That was all going on during Friday and Saturday. I couldn't find a word about the story on traditional mainstream media.

Almost 24 hours later the wires caught up. First AFP filed a piece ‘Bloggers held on hooliganism charges in Azerbaijan: rights group’ and then Reuters ‘Azeri blogger detained, oil major presses case’.

Granted, Reuters added an interesting new angle; that BP, who employed one of the arrested men, was pushing for his release.

Both good pieces again re-tweeted and spread virally and quickly, but 24-hours behind.

Glad I didn't wait for the wires or traditional, mainstream media to catch up. If I had, 24 hours would have been lost and I would have been reading yesterday's news.

Incidentally, as today is Adnan Hajizade's birthday, Global Voices Online readers can leave any messages on either the OL! blog, or one now online to support the detained activists. A Facebook page has been set up in support of Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada. There is also a petition which can be signed online here.


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