Activists and journalists blocked from President Aliyev’s social media pages

Blocking on Facebook. Source: parshko/Shutterstock

Some time ago, civil activist Bakhtiyar Hajiyev discovered he was blocked from President Aliyev’s social media profiles and filed a lawsuit against Aliyev because of this. The court of the Sabail district of Baku refused to consider Hajiyev’s claim. 

Now, the activist has again put the topic on discussion by posting about it on his Facebook page. Many users commented on his post that they were also blocked – the president’s page did not open for them.

According to Hajiyev, together with him, many other activists and journalists were blocked on the president’s official Facebook page.

“This is a violation of freedom of speech and discrimination on a resource that exists at public expense. It seems to me very promising to apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). First, a lawsuit will be filed with the Sabail District Court, then an appeal, and then the case will go to the ECHR. The process will be completed in a maximum of a month”, Bakhtiyar Hajiyev believes.

Who else has been blocked?

Civil activist Rabiya Mammadova discovered through Hajiyev’s post that she is among those blocked. She says she doesn’t understand the reason since she did not even know about the existence of President Aliyev’s page:

“I don’t know why they blocked me. But I guess they saw a potential threat. By telling the truth, we can destroy the myth they are trying to create on social media”, she explains.

Mammadova considers the blocking a violation of her rights because the profiles of officials in social networks are funded by the state budget.

The costs of maintaining these pages are covered by the budget, which, among other things, is also formed from taxes, and therefore such blocking is assessed as an infringement of rights. I will go to court. At the moment we are consulting and, most likely, I will file a lawsuit soon

Rabiya Mammadova

Activist Ilkin Rustamzade also only recently discovered that he was blocked from the president’s page. After reading the post by Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, he decided to check and could not open the page. Rustamzade considers the blocking a violation of his human rights, adding that he have never written any comments on the president’s page.

However, Rustamzade is decided not to court on this matter because he does not believe the case will be considered by Azerbaijani courts:

There is no court in Azerbaijan that would make a fair decision on this case. Appealing to the European Court of Human Rights seems pointless to me. For quite a long time, the ECHR has been considering complaints from Azerbaijan in a slipshod manner, not accepting claims related to the simplest violations of rights”, he argues.

Is the blocking of citizens from the president’s page an infringement rights?

Lawyer Khalid Agaliyev says that all users should have equal access to all means used by government agencies to convey information and provide services, whether it be online resources or something else.

It is a public expense, created precisely for the sake of public interests. And it is wrong if one can use these opportunities, while restrictions are applied to others.

Khalid Agaliyev

The lawyer reports that such restrictions, first of all, contradict the constitutional rights to equality and to receive information. According to Agaliyev, users cannot be discriminated against and blocked based on their opinions. Such acts can be considered constraints on the right to freedom of expression.

“Trump experience” by Ilham Aliyev

Former US President Donald Trump has also blocked some users on his Twitter page. As a result, they complained about it to the U.S. Supreme Court about, who initially dismissed the suit.

An appeal was filled arguing that the president’s Twitter account is a public resource of information, and that the blocking was a violation of rights.

The decision of the second judgment recognized the blocking of individual users for their political views as a infringement of the US constitution. The court ruled that Donald Trump cannot block anyone on his Twitter account.

The ECHR, in turn, also considered the case of blocking a citizen on the account of a government official. The ECHR decision in Marques v. Portugal notes that even if legal restrictions are applied on the pages of officials, they must be described and justified in local law.

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