WASHINGTON -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) deplored the June 4 decision by the Azerbaijani Supreme Court to uphold a government ban on the company’s Azerbaijani website, calling it an attack on the free press and pledging to continue to pursue all available paths of legal recourse.
“We learned in 2014, when Azerbaijani authorities closed our bureau without regard to law or due process, that we, and all independent media, are a target,” said RFE/RL President Thomas Kent. “This ruling confirms that. It is a blunt use of state power to suppress independent media.”
The June 4 ruling by the Supreme Court is the country’s final word on the ban, which originated with a March 2017 order by the country’s Prosecutor-General to block azadliq.org on grounds that it posed a "threat" to the country's national security, and propagated “violence, hatred, or extremism,” and slander. RFE/RL has now lost two appeals in its efforts to lift the ban, despite the fact that Azerbaijani authorities have failed in every instance to produce evidence supporting their allegations.
The ban, which continued in force during Azerbaijan’s recent presidential election, has prompted criticism among international rights monitors. The Committee to Protect Journalists referenced it in a scathing April 6 statement that accused authorities of cleansing the political landscape of "virtually all formal avenues of expressing dissent" ahead of the poll.
This week’s ruling also affected the websites of other nongovernmental media, including opposition newspaper Azadliq, Meydan TV, and two Internet TV programs.
Despite government restrictions, RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, known locally as Radio Azadliq, continues to serve as an essential source of news for online and satellite audiences that number in the millions. The service earned nearly 90 million video views on its YouTube and Facebook channels in 2017, and maintains an active presence on Instagram, Twitter, and Odnoklassniki.