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Russia, Azerbaijan Censured at Annual OSCE Meeting

Warsaw - Participants at the 2014 OSCE Human Dimension Meeting demonstrating for the release of political prisoners in Azerbaijan--23Sep2014

J. Brian Atwood, Head of the U.S. Delegation to the 2014 OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, delivered the accusations at the gathering's opening plenary on Monday, September 22.

"Mr. Chairman, the Russian Federation intensified its systematic campaign at home to stifle dissent in the media and civil society. It has blocked public access to independent news websites and blogs that were critical of government policies and practices. Meanwhile, Russia’s state-controlled television spreads intolerance, invokes threats to so-called “traditional values,” decries purported internal enemies allegedly colluding with foreign governments, and lies about conditions in Ukraine and the Baltic states," he read from a prepared statement.

Atwood also cited new laws in Russia that "restrict the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly and religion, including broadly worded anti-extremism laws that target members of ethnic and religious minorities," and criticized the labeling of prominent NGOs as "foreign agents."

Although Russia was the focus of the delegation's initial remarks, restrictions on civil society in Azerbaijan, Hungary and Turkey were also cited as priority concerns.