An hour into an interview, Eynulla Fatullayev pulls out a cigarette and – making sure the interviewer does not mind – lights up. Azerbaijan has laws prohibiting smoking in offices, but Fatullayev says with a laugh, “We’re journalists – the law isn’t for us.”
Fatullayev has a complicated relationship with the law, and it is one he seems to embrace. In one corner of his office, there is a poster for a film about the four years he spent in prison on defamation charges because of his critical reporting. That case turned him into Azerbaijan’s most prominent political prisoner at the time, and a cause célèbre for European human rights activists.
Next to the movie poster hangs a 1955 photo of Alexander Solzhenitsyn in a Soviet prison camp. And above his desk is a portrait of Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. The dissident and authority figure appear to happily coexist on the walls of his space.
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Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at EurasiaNet, and author of The Bug Pit.