A Social Media Crackdown is a Wrong Response to Dissent

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The Expression Online Coalition (EOC) resolutely condemns the Azerbaijani government’s contemplating tactics to impose regulations on social media that set dangerous precedents.  As such, Facebook is increasingly in the firing line from the ruling regime pondering social media restrictions following Baku riots.In his interview with the press today, an influential ruling party MP Siyavush Novruzov said parliament should impose legal regulations on social media in order to protect “citizens’ honor and dignity”.

This regulatory reflex further exposes the danger of the regime thinking it should and it can control Internet. The crackdown is designed to aid a broader Aliyev’s party’s effort to stifle dissent ahead of presidential elections in October.

Novruzov’s anti-Facebook comment follows a series of worrisome moves to get control over the Internet.

On January 10,  head of the National Television and Radio Council, Nushirevan Maharramov, called it ‘unfair’ that, unlike traditional TV channels, online televisions enjoy license free functioning.

On February 14,  a commission was set up under the Azerbaijan Press Council, with the mandate to handle citizens’ complaints about ethic violations online,hacker attacks on web pages and other issues related to online media.

Expression Online sees these steps as the government’s intention to gag freedom of expression and deprive people of alternative sources of information ahead of the upcoming presidential elections.

“The Internet is quite simply under assault”, comments EOC. founding member, Emin Huseynov. “The regime continues exploring the ways to muzzle the online debate in the country where Internet is the only platform for alternative views”, he said.

The Expression Online Coalition urges the government to refrain from keeping online media under control, and uphold the freedom of expression and internet.

The coalition calls on the government to reinforce country’s international obligations by aligning its Internet policy with the requirements of international law and principles, ensuring that the Internet remains an open and public forum for freedom of expression.

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