September 1st, 2012
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) is deeply concerned over the threat of closure that Azadlig newspaper faces. The fact that one of the few opposition outlets faces closure due to financial debt shows that the media is in critical condition in Azerbaijan.

The leading opposition newspaper "Azadlig" faces closure as the Azerbaijan printing house requires them to pay 14,000 manat
(approximately the same amount in Euro) debt until September 3, Azadligeditor Rahim Hajiyev told IRFS. According to Hajiyev, the newspaper owes14,000 manat for publishing expenses and 11,000 manat for utility costs.According to the editor, the main reason for such critical situation is that Azadlig cannot get 28,000 AZN that the Gasid press distribution company owes them. Repeated negotiations with representatives of the company have not been successful. "They told us that most of their news stands
have been demolished, and the company’s financial situation is critical. Therefore, we cannot pay the funds," said editor.

According to Rahim Hajiyev, press distribution system in the country has been virtually destroyed; new Press kiosks are not interested in selling newspapers. According to him, this situation is a result of government policies that prohibit the sale of newspapers in streets, saying that the street vendors impede traffic.

IRFS declares that there is a strict state control over opposition and independent media in Azerbaijan. Small-circulation newspapers are provided with advertisements, while leading print outlets as Azadlig face advertising bans. Even the sale of the Azadlig newspaper was prohibited in some regions from time to time.

IRFS reminds that Azadlig newspaper has been ordered to pay huge fines due to defamation lawsuits, (e.g. 30,000 manat to Baku Metro head Tagi Ahmadov and 4,000 manat to businessman Anar Mammadov), and significant financial strain of the newspaper is result of a larger government strategy to silence alternative opinions.

IRFS urges the Azerbaijani government to end the pressure on the opposition and independent media and calls on the public officials to be tolerant to alternative opinions and criticisms.