The government of Azerbaijan has curtailed the ability of its citizens to express dissent, expose corruption or demand respect for human rights.
Index on Censorship has campaigned for press freedom and human rights in the country by highlighting abuses and individual cases like 2012 Index award winner Idrak Abbasov and the 2014 award winning Azadliq, an independent newspaper which has been nearly bankrupted. The government presents Azerbaijan as a forward-looking democracy while locking up fearless journalists and rights campaigners on trumped up charges, forcing some into hiding and others into exile. One of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 10 most censored countries, Azerbaijan ranks at 162 on Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index.
As a former Soviet republic, Azerbaijan has never had a strong record on press freedom. Since independence, the country’s journalists have been mistreated, while independent and opposition newspapers faced constant libel charges and other harassment from local law enforcement or criminal elements.
Journalists and outlets that support government policies are left alone to fill their pages with praise, while those who take a more critical approach are punished. Official court documents detail how journalists have been sent to prison on trumped-up charges of hooliganism, extortion, trafficking, and instigating mass protests and violence.
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