On December 29, the Milli Majlis (Parliament) held a plenary meeting at which the newly drafted Code of Administrative Offenses was approved. Initiated by the President of Azerbaijan, the new Code consists of 40 chapters and 608 articles, introducing nearly 280 changes to the present Code.
The new Code significantly expands the list of fines and penalties, which have also been significantly increased.
For instance, the fine stipulated in the new Code for abuse of freedom of mass media and journalists’ rights (e.g. disclosure of state secrets, calling for violent overthrow of the constitutional order, attacks on the integrity of the state, etc.) is now set at 200-300 AZN for natural persons, 500-700 AZN for officials, and 2000-3000 AZN for legal entities. This represents close to a tenfold increase; the fines under the present Code are 20-25 AZN, 60-80 AZN, and 200-250 AZN respectively.
The monetary sanctions applicable to mass media outlets for violation of sponsorship requirements (Article 386 of the new Code), which range between 1000-1500 AZN for natural persons, 2500-3500 AZN for officials and 8000-10000 AZN for legal entities, have also seen massive increases. The minimum amount has increased by a factor of 30, while the maximum amount has been raised by a factor of 200. The present Code (Article 188) provides for a fine of 30-50 AZN.
A five-fold increase has been introduced to the penalties for failing to respond to a journalist’s inquiry on time (a 200-300 AZN fine is stipulated in Article 382.1 of the new Code compared to 40-70 AZN under Article 186.1 of the present Code), as well as for restricting the provision of information to a journalist or refusing from its provision (a 300-500 AZN fine is stipulated in Article 382.2 of the new Code compared to a 60-90 AZN in Article 186.2 of the present Code).
Violations related to the organization and holding of rallies, demonstrations, street processions and pickets, currently punishable by a fine of 7-13 AZN under Article 298, will be punishable by a fine of 1500-3000 AZN for individuals (alternatively, community service for 200-240 hours or administrative detention for a period of up to 2 months), 3000-6000 AZN for officials, and 15,000-60,000 AZN for legal entities, according to Article 512 of the new Code.
The Code will enter into force in May 2016.