Two French journalists accused by Azerbaijan’s government of defamation for calling the country a “dictatorship” appeared for a hearing at a French court Tuesday, in an unusual case that activists call an effort to export censorship, AP reported.
The hearing came as multiple European news organizations published a joint investigation Tuesday which showed that, Azerbaijan’s ruling elite operated a secret $2.9bn fund for two years to pay prominent Europeans, buy luxury goods and launder money through a network of opaque British companies.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders testified for the defense of journalists Elise Lucet and Laurent Richard, as did an Azerbaijani journalist and Azerbaijani human rights activists living in exile.
Reporters Without Borders calls the lawsuit “an act of intimidation highlighting the Azerbaijani government’s contempt for free speech. Not content with eradicating all pluralism at home, the regime is now targeting its critics abroad.”
Reporters Without Borders said at least 16 journalists, bloggers and media workers are currently in custody in Azerbaijan in connection with providing news.