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On October 6, a group of MPs held a conference at the International Press Centre.
Speaking at the conference, New Azerbaijan Party member, MP Malahat Ibrahimgizi said some persons were exploiting democracy and freedom of speech in Azerbaijan for their personal interests, misconceiving these freedoms and trying to discredit other people.
According to Ibrahimgizi, some media outlets, particularly social networks were used to disseminate information contradicting national and moral values. “Honour and dignity of citizens are humiliated. The number of social network users is fast growing. But to this day there is no law regulating the online media. We must mobilise all intellectuals of the society, publicly condemn such practices, and prevent this trend. We must create a Monitoring Group, monitor their activities, and take appropriate steps within the law,” Ibrahimgizi said.
Nonpartisan MP Elmira Akhundova suggested solutions to this problem. “Information commissioner must be instituted. Apart from it, the Press Council must be given significant powers with regard to internet media,” she said.
Press Council member Mushfig Alasgarli said there were serious content-related problems of the online media and stressed the importance of taking action in this regard. “The proposals should be taken on board, incorporated into a bill and presented to Milli Majlis. The problems created by social networks and internet media give rise to concerns in Azerbaijan and in the whole world alike,” the Press Council member said.
Media expert Alasgar Mammadli told IRFS that such attempts were not new and were brought up time after time and every time that issue was raised, new restrictive provisions were added to the legislation.
“Most recently in 2013, following the initiatives voiced for the regulation of the online media, an addition was made to the legislation so as Articles 147 (libel) and 148 (insult) of the Criminal Code would apply to the internet as well. I should also note that, MP Malahat Ibrahimgizi’s claim that the internet media is not regulated is wrong, because there have been several instances of offensive, libellous and defamatory information put online being challenged in court,” Mammadli said.
According to the expert, the underlying intention is not to regulate but to shut down the internet, because social media and some online media outlets are the only free platform.
Mammadli believes that granting the above-mentioned powers to the Press Council is contrary to the very essence of the Council. “The Press Council is a self-regulatory organisation. Granting powers to the Press Council under a certain law would turn it into an official government body,” the expert said.
Recall that, at a plenary meeting of Milli Majlis held on September 30, MP Malahat Ibrahimgizi representing the ruling New Azerbaijan Party called for the closure of ‘Sancaq Production’ Facebook page managed by video blogger Mehman Huseynov and Meydan TV which is critical of the president. Sancaq Production has 270,000 followers. The page shares videos and photos on political and social processes in the country, and human rights violations in general.