The process of closing "non-restricted" media outlets through courts has begun in Azerbaijan
Media law and registry
The Media Development Agency of Azerbaijan has started filing lawsuits against media entities that have not been registered in the media register. Registration started in October 2022, according to the new Law on Media. Some online publications, in order to continue their existence, have declared themselves blogs.
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Muhammad Zamanov (Ersoy), head of the dia.az website, has reported that the Media Development Agency has filed a lawsuit with the Baku Court of Appeal to “terminate his activities”. The statement notes that Zamanov did not apply for inclusion of his publication in the register in due time, so his activities as a journalist and the website as a media structure are subject to ban.
“I may be asked, why have you still not applied for inclusion in the register? But what is the use of applying? Similar sites criticizing the government have applied, but in vain, that’s why I did not apply,” Zamanov said in a conversation with Argument.az.
Mohammed Ersoy also said that the site functions now not as a news site, but as “Mohammed Ersoy’s blog”. The law does not contain any provisions regarding the activities of blogs.
Saida Safiyeva, head of the Communications Department of the Media Development Agency, said in response to Turan’s inquiry that the agency takes measures against media entities as stipulated by its charter.
“These are media outlets that grossly violate the Media Law,” she said, without specifying how many such media outlets there are.
As early as last year, the Media Development Agency said that the legality of the activities of media entities that did not apply for registration would be considered by the court.
The process of registration in the Media Registry of Azerbaijani journalists and media outlets started on October 14, 2022. The registration was conducted for 6 months and was completed in April 2023. During this period, up to 50 websites did not apply for registration, or applied and were rejected.
The Law “On Media”, according to which the registration in the registry is maintained, was adopted on December 21, 2021. On February 10, 2022, President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree “On Implementation of the Law on Media” and it came into force.
On September 26, 2022, the rules for maintaining the media register were approved.
The adoption of these rules sparked protests from a number of independent media outlets, journalists and editors. They believe that the media registry will lead to suppression of freedom of speech in the country.
Journalists and media managers – Shamshad Agha, Ulvi Hasanli and Vugar Gurdganli – appealed to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the law contradicts the Azerbaijani Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The appeal stated that the Constitutional Court should challenge the compliance of the law with the Constitution and the Convention. Despite the fact that several months have passed, the Constitutional Court has not yet considered the suit.
In addition, the Venice Commission gave a negative opinion on the law “On Media”. The Commission’s opinion stated that the law is reactionary and such a law cannot be adopted in a country that is a member of the Council of Europe.
A number of international organizations for the protection of freedom of expression, Council of Europe co-rapporteurs and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe also demanded that the law be changed, citing that it was reactionary.