Azerbaijan Cited for Censorship

WASHINGTON–According to a publication entitled Attacks on the Press in 1996: A Worldwide Survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists–censorship has become an increasingly serious human rights abuse–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

As reported by the publication–"at least one opposition newspaper–Avrazia–a weekly that converted to a daily in early 1996–was shut down for a prolonged period–then resumed publication under new management. Others–like Azadlig–a respected independent paper that converted to a daily in September–as well as seven days and Mukhalifat–are repeatedly censored–seized–or threatened."

The document went on to demonstrate how prominent public figures are able to use the courts to file libel suits against journalists who are critical of their policies.

"…reporters must labor under both military and government censorship. The Soviet-era censor–an administrative body known as Glavlit–still operates in the government–in tandem with a special unit in President Heidar Aliyev’s office–vetting articles before they appear…" says the report–adding–"Topics that have fallen under the censors’ scissors are government corruption–the human rights situation–relations with Russia–the treatment of Azeri citizens in Russia–the Russian military presence–the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh–Azerbaijan’s relations with Iran–the assassination attempt against President Aliyev–and disparaging commentary about the president of other high officials."

The publication also speaks of the government’s monopoly of television broadcasting–and the ministry of communication’s general refusal to license independent stations. "Applications are told of the need for approval from the presidential administration–which the president’s office denies–thus leaving independents without any recourse because there is no broadcasting law to use to mount a challenge through the courts," concludes the document.

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