On Friday Baku’s Sabail district court ruled in favour of blocking access to the website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty‘s (RFE/RL) Azerbaijani Service, sparking criticism at what is seen as an increasing crackdown on media freedom in the country.
“Today’s ruling is another blatant attempt by Azerbaijani authorities to try to silence our reporting in Azerbaijan. It misrepresents RFE/RL’s work in Azerbaijan, and violates Azerbaijan’s international commitments to respect media freedom,” RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said in a press statement regarding the block, which also applies to the non-state owned Azadliq newspaper, Meydan TV and the online Turan TV and Azerbaycan Saati TV channels.
Viewing these websites has been prohibited since 27 March on the instructions of Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General’s Office, which affirms that they “pose a threat” to national security, accusing the sites of “posting content deemed to promote violence, hatred, or extremism, violate privacy, or constitute slander”.
According to a report by RFE/RL, Azerbaijani legislation provides for the possible prosecution of RFE/RL Azerbaijani service’s correspondents in light of the guilty judgement.
The initial blocking of the RFE/RL site came after the Azerbaijani service published investigations into financial activities linked to members of the president’s family and inner circle.