Azerbaijan: President Aliyev Tightens Screws on Free Media

Azerbaijan's president has signed a law that makes it easier to shut down independent media outlets that receive foreign funding.

President Ilham AliyevRadio Free Europe reports that on Tuesday President Ilham Aliyev approved amendments to the country's mass media law, allowing any organization that receives foreign funding, or is found guilty of defamation twice within a year, to be shut down by a court's ruling.  The legislation was passed by Parliament back in December. 

This new law comes amid a maelstrom of controversy regarding press freedom in the oil-rich nation.  Last week, a court extended the detention of Khadija Ismayilova, an OCCRP and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist accused of inciting a man to attempt suicide, an allegation which she denies and which the man later recanted.  Governments, non-governmental organizations and human rights watchdogs have condemned her arrest as politically motivated.  In December 2014, police raided RFE/RL's Baku office and interrogated several employees, forcing the branch to close down.

Earlier that month, Meydan TV, another independent media outlet, also terminated its operations in Baku due to the "on-going crackdown on freedom of speech and the pressure against the independent media."

Azerbaijan currently has the second highest amount of jailed journalists per capita in the world (after Eritrea), despite the fact its constitution guarantees a free press.