On 5 September, the website of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) was blocked in Azerbaijan.
The block occurred hours after OCCRP published a major investigation into corruption, bribery, and money-laundering, in which President Aliyev, his family, and other powerful figures are alleged to have been involved. The investigation, known as the Azerbaijani Laundromat, is based on leaked banking records, and details the way in which $2.9 billion was laundered through a series of shell companies and then used to bribe European politicians, buy luxury goods, or move money abroad for other purposes.
‘The goal of independent journalism is to hold those in power accountable,’ Drew Sullivan, editor and co-founder of OCCRP, told Meydan TV. ‘The Azerbaijani Laundromat investigation sheds light on secretive transactions worth billions of dollars made by powerful, wealthy elites. Its publication is in the interest of all Azerbaijani citizens who wonder whether their government is working for them or against them. The authorities’ decision to block OCCRP’s web site immediately after the publication of the investigation shows that its priority is to keep its own citizens in the dark.
Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise.
‘It’s part of the government’s long-standing crackdown on free expression, which has been amply documented by the world’s leading human rights organizations,’ continued Sullivan. ‘OCCRP, its local and international partners, and the world’s other investigative journalists will continue their work to expose corruption and inform the public about official wrongdoing.The truth always wants to get out. Azerbaijanis will find the truth — and no amount of blocking will stop it.’
At the time of writing, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications and High Technologies had not responded to Meydan TV’s requests for comment.