​Hearings commence on blocking news sites in Azerbaijan

A district court in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, begun hearings on 27 April in the case of a government demand to block access to the websites of several independent news organizations. The lawsuit filed by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technology, asks the court to order ISPs to make permanent the censorship of the websites of the independent newspaper Azadliq, the Berlin-based, online news agency Meydan TV, the Azerbaijani service of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and online video channels Azerbaycan Saati and Turan TV, RFE/RL reports. The news organizations were accused of advocating a violent overthrow of the government and promoting activities of radical religious groups, which they deny. The Prosecutor's Office claimed the accused websites and media outlets "pose a threat" to Azerbaijan's national security.

The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded to stop the censorship of independent sources. “The Azerbaijani government should immediately stop censoring these important sources of news and analysis, and should instead lift all restrictions on news in Azerbaijan. If five news websites can threaten Azerbaijan’s national security, as the government claims, Azerbaijanis and the rest of the world should be deeply concerned by the country’s fragility,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova.

The attempts to block the aforementioned websites came after RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service published investigative reports about financial activities linked to the members of President Ilham Aliyev’s family and his inner circle.

The investigative reports were produced by RFE/RL in cooperation with the Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

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