Azerbaijani court upholds blocking of independent news websites

On 19 December, the Baku Court of Appeal upheld a ruling to block access to a number of independent news websites in Azerbaijan. The failed appeal had been brought by Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani service, Azadlig (“Liberty”), and the unrelated Azadlig newspaper.

In May 2017, five independent news sites were blocked in Azerbaijan after the Azerbaijani Ministry of Communications brought a lawsuit against them. The websites affected are Radio Liberty’s, Azadlig newspaper’s, the websites of Turan TV and the Azerbaijan Hour TV program, as well as Meydan TV.

Adil Ismayilov, representing Radio Liberty, filed a motion requesting that the court consider Radio Liberty’s case separately. “How are the writings of Meydan TV or Azadlig newspaper relevant to the organization I represent?” Ismayilov asked. “Should a bank put all its debtors together and bring a single case against them all?” The motion was rejected.

According to Freedom House’s 2017 report on internet freedom in Azerbaijan, “internet freedom declined in Azerbaijan in the past year after the government introduced new laws empowering authorities to block content in broad circumstances, while actors likely tied to the government targeted activists with malware attacks.” The report lists the country’s overall internet freedom status as “partly free,” while the press freedom status is “not free.”

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