Statement: Expression Online Demands Azerbaijani Government Keep Hands Off the Internet

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Expression Online Initiative is deeply concerned by the prospect of the National Television and Radio Council’s (NTRC) to license online televisions, which is seen as an assault on Internet freedom. The Expression Online Initiative calls upon the government to refrain from developing and applying these practices as they are incompatible with the fundamental right to freedom of expression and freedom of internet.

In his statement issued on January 10, head of the NTRC Nushirevan Maharramov called it ‘unfair’ that, unlike traditional TV channels, online televisions enjoy license free functioning.

Azerbaijani government once again is about to expand the ability to censor the online expression. ‘As 2013 presidential elections are approaching, the state is trying to grab greater control over online expression”, says Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) Chair and Expression Online member, Emin Huseynov.

Contrary to the numerous statements by the President of Azerbaijan that country ‘ has free Internet’, the authorities now voice their plans to restrict freedom of expression online. ‘The official rhetoric is very remote from the contemptible reality: Azerbaijan is becoming internet- repressive state’, Huseynov says.

Expression Online sees this step 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 online television has increasingly become the space for Azerbaijani civil society to expose corruption and other wrongdoings, given the traditional broadcast is strictly controlled by the state.

Expression Online calls on the authorities to recognize their obligations under the international law, to cease its tactics to silence freedom of expression, which is guaranteed under Article 10 of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Article 47 of the Azerbaijani Constitution.

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