Baku Court orders closure of previously blocked websites
On 12 May, the Baku City Sabali District Court sustained a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Security Center (ESC) under the Ministry of Communications on the closure of five independent online-resources: azadliq.info (The Azadliq newspaper), azadliq.org (Radio Azadliq’), “azerbaycansaati.com”, meydan.tv, as well as Azərbaycan saatı (Azerbaijani Hour) and Turan TV channels.
Samed Rahimov, the defense lawyer, pointed out that the Communication Ministry’s decision made on 27 March on blocking the aforesaid websites violated the European Convention on Human Rights, the Strasbourg-based Court’s ruling over blocking certain websites in Turkey, as well as the 2016 Resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, under which a website can’t be blocked and the restrictions should apply only to certain information.
Rahimov noted that the publications that gave rise to the Communication Ministry’s claims were not at variance with ‘the legal interests of public and state’. Those materials didn’t convey any calls for radicalism or any other illegitimate actions.
However, Bahtiyar Mammadov, the ESC official, insisted on sustaining the lawsuit.
Following this, the judge refused to give time to Adyl Ismayilov, Radio Azadliq’s lawyer, to deliver his speech and ruled in favor of blocking the websites.
Turan news agency reported that Rovshan Hajibeyli, the editor of the Azadliq newspaper website, said that they would continue their work anyway.
As Alesker Mammedli, a lawyer and media expert, told Radio Azadliq when commenting on the court ruling: “It’s a step in the wrong direction that will lead to the final strangulation of internet freedom in Azerbaijan. The court showed that it is guided by a political order, rather than by justice.”
Emin Milli, the director of Meydan tv, one of the blocked websites, believes that the court ruling was conditioned by the government’s intention to shield the readers from critical materials against it. ‘However, the readers have already learned how to use anonimizers and VPN software and they will read our websites anyway,” Milli told Radio Azadliq.