A well-known journalist in Azerbaijan who made a derogatory comment on Facebook about a local footballer was attacked by a group of men a short time later and died in hospital after giving a TV interview in which he said he believed the two incidents were linked.

Rasim Aliyev, who worked for ann.az news, criticised Azerbaijan international Javid Huseynov, who had been asked by a Greek Cypriot journalist why he waved a Turkish flag at supporters of Cypriot club Apollon Limassol after a Europa League qualifying match with his team Gabala FK.

Huseynov appeared to make a rude gesture at the journalist and Aliyev wrote on Facebook that he did not want someone so "immoral and ill-bred" representing his country. He then received a number of angry calls and finally arranged to meet a man claiming to be a cousin of Huseynov in Baku. When he got there he was attacked by several men.

Huseynov, who has yet to comment, has been arrested in relation to the attack along with five other men including his cousin.

"Despite the fact that Huseynov is a very important player for the Gabala team, he has been suspended from the first team until this issue is clarified," said the club in a statement.

This was not the first time Aliyev had been attacked, with a video compilation of assaults posted on Facebook. Following his death in hospital as a result of injuries sustained in the assault his girlfriend criticised the quality of treatment he received.

Sport for Rights, which was set up ahead of June's Azerbaijan European Games to highlight concern about freedom of expression, said on Facebook: "Aliyev's murder is the latest incident in a vicious cycle of violence against journalists in Azerbaijan.

"Over the past decade, there have been hundreds of attacks against journalists in the country, including the murders of Elmar Huseynov in 2005 and Rafig Tagi in 2011, which remain unsolved. Aliyev's murder also takes place amidst a brutal human rights crackdown in the aftermath of the European Games.

"Sport for Rights calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the attack, and bring the perpetrators as well as the masterminds to justice."