Locking up free expression: Azerbaijan silences critical voices

Azerbaijan’s record on free expression has undergone a marked deterioration in the run up to its presidential election, a report of Index on Censorship says.

The government has introduced a new set of repressive laws, curbs on media and arrests of journalists, political activists and human rights defenders. This is one of the conclusions of the report that addresses violations against freedom of expression. It is based on field research conducted between 16 and 21 September 2013 in Baku, on the eve of Azerbaijan’s presidential elections.

Laws passed in May 2013 extend existing draconian penalties for criminal defamation and insult to online content and public demonstrations. Intimidation, harassment and violence against journalists continue with impunity. Civil society organisations have raised concerns about the deterioration of the media environment and the number of imprisoned journalists through the intensification of the practice of unjustified criminal prosecution.

It is important to note that country is due to assume the chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in 2014, while it fails to comply with its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Full text of the report is available here, or can be found as an attachment below.

Photo by Abbas Atilay