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2016, 27 Oktyabr, Cümə axşamı, Bakı vaxtı 03:25

Official Baku Says News Websites Must Register, Experts Disagree

Azerbaijan -- Hikmat Hajiyev, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - 2015

Azerbaijan -- Hikmat Hajiyev, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - 2015

“An organization presenting itself as 'Meydan TV' and ‘’ website are not registered to work in Azerbaijan”, said head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs press department Hikmat Hajiyev in an interview with website on October 12.

He informed the website that none of these websites have informed the MFA of their work and presence in the country. They have been working in Azerbaijan without having gone through the registry process.

As for the “BBC Azerbaijan” service, this organization and its employees go through accreditation on an on-going basis said the spokesperson.

In an earlier statement Ali Hasanov, Presidential aide on social and political issues issued a similar warning saying despite numerous warnings, “Interaz”, “Euroaz” TV channels, “Voice of America” radio and “Meydan TV” website as well as a number of other international media outlets have been working illegally in the country.

But turns out, according to Azerbaijan's law on Foreign Media and the country's constitution some foreign outlets contrary to the statements of the MFA do not have to register. AzadliqRadiosu spoke with Alasgar Mammadli, an expert on media issues in Azerbaijan.

Do foreign media outlets have to acquire permission from the government of Azerbaijan in order to broadcast news in Azerbaijani language?

Any broadcast is possible in any country, in any language. Requiring any .org extension to register for the sake of broadcast in Azerbaijani language is violation of UN “Civil and Political Rights” article 19 because freedom of expression is a right recognized in every country. This also incudes acquiring and sharing information. In Azerbaijan, every person is entitled to acquire information and share it. It is clearly stated in the country’s constitution. According to article 51, everyone has a right to obtain and spread information.

What does foreign accreditation mentioned by the MFA actually mean?

Accreditation means that when foreign media outlet sends its representative into Azerbaijan, this journalist can get a few rights such as getting access to press statements, information and so on. However this in no way mean that a journalist without any accreditation cannot obtain any information. In any country, freelance journalists obtain information they need and share it through their stories and reporting. I doubt the MFA was referring to the state constitution, because if he was, he won’t speak this way.

The accreditation of foreign media outlets in Azerbaijan also means that outlet has permanent representative in the country, that it works on permanent basis there. And this is where it must be differentiated- if foreign media outlet is not interested in permanent presence in the country and does not have full time staff on the ground and only cooperates with freelance writers then it does not have to go through accreditation.

Accreditation only concerns foreign correspondents. How can we call Azerbaijani journalists foreign? No one can simply decide to expand the “foreign journalist” notion and use against Azerbaijani journalists. The English reporter for “Voice of America” is a “foreigner” not its Azerbaijani reporter.

Do you think after this statement from the MFA, those cooperating with media outlets mentioned would get pressured?

In this country journalists are pressured all the time. If they intend to create problems for someone’s work, then they don’t really need any statements.

And what about journalists cooperating with foreign media outlets who are told their work is illegal because they do not have the accreditation? Can’t they press charges against such journalists?

As I already said earlier, the law is using “foreign journalist” only. So if any Azerbaijani journalists starts facing pressure then it means this is illegal. Even though Azerbaijan’s judiciary is not independent, if any of these cases reach the European Court of Human Rights, the restrictions will be considered as illegal and will be assessed as pressure on freedom of expression.

No further statements or comments were made by the MFA representatitves.