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Rasim Aliyev had said on Facebook that Javid Huseynov should be banned from European football for allegedly making a rude gesture at a Cypriot journalist.
The reporter asked why he had waved a Turkish flag at a Cypriot team's fans.
Mr Aliyev was then beaten up after being lured to a meeting by somebody who said they were a relative of the player, local media report.
He later died from internal bleeding.
In his Facebook post, Mr Aliyev, who worked for the ann.az news website, accused Mr Huseynov of being "immoral and ill-bred" for making the gesture after a Europa League qualifying tie between his club, Gabala FK, and Apollon Limassol.
Turan news agency reported that a cousin of Mr Huseynov had been detained, but Azeri security services could not confirm this to the BBC.
Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev, said he was "seriously concerned" by the incident, calling it a "threat to freedom of speech", according to Baku-based APA news agency.
Meanwhile, the Gabala club issued a statement saying that Mr Huseynov had been suspended from the team.
Saying that it was "shocked" by the journalist's death, the club said nobody had the "right to threaten anyone or use violence".
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The head of Azerbaijan's Press Council, Aflatun Amasov, said that Mr Aliyev's death "must not be politicised".
"The investigation is not finished yet," APA quoted Mr Amasov as saying.
"Therefore, it is not right to explain the incident from the point of view of freedom of speech and the media."
He added that the Press Council was also "concerned" about unethical postings on social networking websites.
Freedom of expression is a thorny issue in Azerbaijan, with the country rated 162nd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Freedom House says the Azeri authorities imprison journalists and bloggers who express dissenting opinions, while violence against journalists continues with impunity.
This is an old pattern. Procopias, in his Secret History, describes the way that sport sometimes serves as a proxy for politics in authoritarian states, in this case in the 6th century Byzantine Empire. He relates the political function of the clubs of supporters for Hippodrome One can follow its lines here. events. The Nika rebellion that almost overthrew Justianian was in part orchestrated by the action of these clubs, and both Emperor and his enemies were careful to patronize these clubs.
One can follow its lines here. A footballer with a large fan base, Javid Huseynov, waves a Turkish flag at Cypriot fans and made a rude gesture at a Cypriot journalist. Cyprus is a politically volatile place since the Turkish occupation of part of the island and its recent accession into the European Union. "Cyprus joined the EU as a de facto divided island but the whole of Cyprus is EU territory. Turkish Cypriots are EU citizens as they are citizens of an EU country - the Republic of Cyprus - even if they live in a part of Cyprus not under government control." (European Union--Cyprus). Azeris are a Turkish speaking ethnic group that makes up a majority of the populaiton fo Azerbaijan and are a large ethnic minority in Iran.
Rasim Aliyev, a Azerbaijani journalist criticized these actions and suggested that the footballer be banned from European football for his conduct. This was done on social media--on Mr. Aliyev's facebook site. For this he was lured out of his house and beaten to death. So far, this sounds like a very sad and needlessly cruel act by fans out of control--something common among football fans throughout Europe. And, indeed, the authorities detained a member of Javid Huseynov's family. But it was what happened after that suggests the larger implications.
First, the football club suspended Mr. Huseynov. It appears that Mr. Aliyev's complaints produced results, in the wake of his killing. At the same time, and most tellingly, the Azerbaijani Press Club called for restraint--lest the political implications of the killing be emphasized. It feared that the killing would be interpreted as a further erosion of the speech rights of citizens, and especially journalists. It perhaps hoped that the killing could be framed as one of passion rather than of politics. More importantly, it then turned the argument around suggesting, in a way that mirrors the line taken by Bangladeshi authorities in the wake of the butchering of Bangladeshi bloggers, that the problem might be with the social media expression itself. In the Bangladeshi case because it insulted religion and incited passion--unethical postings could inflame political passion. In the Azerbaijani case perhaps because it incited political passion by insulting Azerbaijani's ethnic ties to Turkey. But these stances are taken in a context in which Azerbaijan appears to stand with those states in which violence against journalists and bloggers appears to be possible with impunity.
A journalist criticizes an Azerbaijani footballer for a political gesture at a football match involving Cypriot teams. He is killed for his trouble. A societal analysis suggests that, irrespective of the legal framework in Azerbaijan, societal rules views such criticism, especially when directed in favor of Greeks, as a capital offense, a suggestion, perhaps, of ethno treason. And that might permit societal members to kill with impunity. Why impunity? Because the state may not have the power to overcome the power of societal norms in this case. It is likely here that if the perpetrators are ever caught and tried, they might be punished--or at least appear to be punished. That will happen not because of any enthusiasm for this result among strong supporters of mass societal norms in Azerbaijan. Rather, it will be on account of the application of the will of stronger societal norms, norms of importance to Azerbaijan--perhaps projected form out of the European Union, that will enable Azerbaijan to apply laws s to trump the societal norms that made this killing something that could be executed.