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Azerbaijani Court Starts Hearings On Baku's Demand To Block Independent Websites

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev

BAKU -- A district court in Baku has begun hearings into a demand by Azerbaijan's government to block the websites of four other independent media outlets, including the website of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.

The lawsuit was filed by Faiq Farmanov, head of the Electronic Security Center under the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and High Technology.

The court session on April 27 was short. The hearing was adjourned until May 1 after lawyers representing the media outlets requested that all documents related to the case be presented to them.

According to documents submitted to the court, the ministry has limited access to the sites since March 27 on the instructions of the Prosecutor-General's Office.

Azerbaijan's top prosecutor ordered the limitations, claiming the websites of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service and the other media outlets "pose a threat" to Azerbaijan's national security.

The government ministry's lawsuit was filed by Farmanov to legally justify the prosecutor's order.

RFE/RL President Thomas Kent called the ministry’s action an attempt at "blatant censorship that is intended to intimidate the independent press, and which shows nothing but contempt for basic rights and international conventions."

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

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