Azerbaijani Journalists Protest Against New Media Law
Carrying a makeshift headstone with “Independent Media” written on it, a small group of journalists protested on Friday against a new media law, which they see as unconstitutional, further limiting independent journalism and violating human rights.
dispersed the group within some 15 minutes.“From today on, media is considered dead,” said freelance journalist Nurlan Libre, as he placed the headstone in front of the country’s parliament building. Police
“This is censorship, this is authoritarianism. It is against our constitutional rights. This means turning the country into North Korea,” the visibly upset young man yelled. “We are against every chapter of this media bill,” he added.
The bill addresses the organizational, legal and economic activities of media entities and limits the acquisition, production and sharing of information. It has passed two hearings and is scheduled for a third and final hearing in the coming weeks, after which President Ilham Aliyev is likely to sign it into law.
Media founders must be Azeri nationals living in Azerbaijan and media outlets cannot be funded by foreigners or foreign firms, representative offices as well as foreign government agencies, according to the new bill.
The draft also foresees the establishment of a Media Register, a body that would issue three-years-long journalist accreditations to registered journalists. Those who have a criminal record will not qualify for an accreditation, which eliminates a significant number of independent reporters, having in mind how many Baku imprisoned over the years.
Outlets will be able to use information and programs of other media only with subscription or a signed contract.
Critics called for the law to be annulled and dozens of journalists, lawyers and media experts issued a joint statement, claiming the law “restricts freedom of media and expression” and is not in accordance with the Constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights.
The bill “creates favorable conditions for unnecessary interference with freedom of expression and the media," the statement said, adding that it also “does not serve the bright and prosperous future of our country, but rather the formation of a more closed environment.”