Alexander Lapshin is bereft. The Israeli travel blogger and journalist has been threatened and homeless for the past 17 months. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomed him while he was visiting Europe and North America to meet human rights activists and organisations. As part of a desperate call for international help and support.
An exhausting fight for his rights
Lapshin was arrested in Belarus in December 2016 at Azerbaijan’s request for having illegally visited Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory between Azerbaijan and Armenia, while he was on holiday. He was extradited to Azerbaijan, jailed for nine months and attacked, before receiving President Ilham Aliyev’s pardon.
Unfortunately, his fight is far being from over. For the journalist, the dilemma is inextricable. He lodged a claim against Azerbaijan at the European Court of Human Rights. Yet, Lapshin is being asked by Israel to halt any ongoing legal action, the reason being that his case raises sensitive political issues that are likely to harm relations between Israel and Azerbaijan. But not having the support of his homeland (Israel) will not make him turn back on his initial decision: he is determined to win the battle against Azerbaijan.
The IFJ committed to support Alexander Lapshin in his quest for freedom and security, a gesture that the blogger recognizes and “deeply appreciates in these difficult times”. Lapshin wants to “share his story with a larger audience” and raise awareness over the threat shared by more than 600 foreign citizens of being condemned by Azerbaijan’s authorities for having visited the disputed and separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surroundings.
An IFJ press card to keep him out of trouble
The Federation decided to deepen its support for Lapshin by granting him an International Press Card (IPC), the globallyrecognized press pass that provides its holders with the support of the IFJ community across the globe. The card will allow the 42-year old travel blogger to continue practicing his job on an international level, and will also represent an important safeguard. “The delivery of the card must be made a priority, as it can help him in case of trouble,” said Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary of the IFJ.
Lapshin is just one of many journalists who have been targeted by the Azerbaijani authorities in recent years. Already in 2015, the IFJ along with the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) sent the Azerbaijani President a letter calling for the release of seven jailed journalists. “We are alarmed at the scale of attacks against press freedom in a country that is a member of the Council of Europe and should abide by its principles on freedom of expression as laid down in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights” said former IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
Since then, there has been no evidence of improvement in the country’s record – freedom of speech and of the press remains widely undermined. Alexander Laphsin wants to become an advocate “for the democratic rights and freedoms of Azerbaijan’s civil society”. He adds that he defends the “international community in ensuring the exercise of the universal human rights in all corners of the world”, a fight that the IFJ strongly supports and hails.
For further information on Alexander Lapshin and his work, visit his blog:https://puerrtto.livejournal.com/