Monday, November 27, 2006

Silencing Dissent in Azerbaijan

Unfortunately, supporters of free expression in Azerbaijan have even more pressing worries than death threats from Iranian clerics. Their own government is silencing dissident media, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

Azerbaijani authorities threw a leading opposition party and newspaper out of their offices today, in a continuing crackdown on the independent media, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported.

Police removed belongings and equipment from the offices of "Azadliq," the largest opposition newspaper, and the Popular Front, the main opposition party.

A journalists' union leader accused the government of seeking to silence dissent.

Yesterday, authorities warned the paper and the party of the impending eviction and took independent broadcaster ANS, the country's first private radio and television company, off the air.

The BBC provides additional details and this bit of context:

Campaigners for media freedom have accused the Azeri government of curbing free speech in recent months by arresting journalists, launching punitive libel suits and trying to silence independent voices such as ANS, the BBC's Matthew Collin reports from the region.

President Ilham Aliyev has denied there is a problem with freedom of speech in Azerbaijan and the Azeri authorities say they are simply enforcing the law.

Yes, I'm sure that President Aliyev is quite satisfied with the state of freedom of speech in his country. I suspect, though, that many Azeris would disagree if they had the opportunity.


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