CHANGES MADE TO LAW ON MASS MEDIA

March 10th, 2009
On 6 March, during a session of the Milli Mejlis, discussions about changes and amendments to the Law on Mass Media of the Republic of Azerbaijan were conducted, and the changes and amendments were adopted with 104 votes in favor, five votes against them and one abstention.

In connection with this, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety contacted independent researcher on media issues Alasgar Mammadli to find out to what extent these amendments and changes are beneficial. Mammadli told IRFS that these amendments and changes seriously jeopardize the freedom and independence of press publications. Provisions in the amendments contradict the Constitution of Azerbaijan Republic, Article 10 of European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of speech and freedom of press) and criteria determined by the European Court of Human Rights in connection with this article.
A. Mammadli noted that the ban imposed on foreign citizens and people who do not have college degree, which restrict their right to become editor of a press publication is not right. It is noted in the convention that everyone has right to obtain information. This means citizenship does not have anything to do with this issue.
A. Mammadli touched on the issue of closing press publications down for two months if they do not send their copies to the founder, state archive, National Library, Book Chamber, Azerbaijan’s Press Council, and the libraries of legislatives and relevant executive administration organs within ten days. He said that this will create serious problems for Azerbaijan.
In conclusion, A. Mammadli expressed his opinion on the changes made to article 19 of Law on Mass Media. He said stopping the activity of a publication for two months when it abuses mass media information freedom or is brought to administrative responsibility for committing the same violation within one year is a very harsh. The journalist involved in administrative responsibility will have paid the fine anyway, and shutting down the mass media is very severe and disproportionate sanction.