The Media Rights Institute believes that article 167.2 (the ban of production, import, sale and spread of religious literature, materials without special permission) is a serious threat against freedom of speech in Azerbaijan.
In accordance with article 167.2 which was added to the criminal code by the National Assembly (Milli Majlis), persons who committed these actions are punished by a fine of 5000 AZN to 7000 AZN or by imprisonment for up to 2 years. If a group of persons, an organized group, or officials committed these actions, or if the act if a person is caught a second time, they will be punished by the fine from 7000 AZN to 9000 AZN or by 2 up to 5 years of imprisonment.
Any expression (in literature, in films, or in newspapers) can be restricted for the interests of only national security and territorial integrity, for the protection of health and morals, for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, for the prevention of disorder or protection of public security, for the guarantee of public order, to prevent the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
The Media Rights Institute said that the publication, import, sale, and dissemination of any literature, materials, and other information materials are part of the right of freedom of expression. Giving severe punishment to those who use their freedom of expression violates freedom of expression and will damage public interests
The Media Rights Institute recommends to eliminate this law, as well as incorrect legislation that envisions censorship on religious literature, and to conform all regulations dealing with freedom of expression to the Azerbaijani Constitution, constitutional law on the regulation of human rights and freedom, and Article 10 of the European Convention.