‘The chair of Azerbaijan’s Internet Forum Osman Gunduz announced that a motion put forward in parliament yesterday will allow the government to more tightly regulate online media in the country.
The motion vaguely proposes to alert internet website owners and their corresponding host providers to the presence of so-called “forbidden information” on their site. The information must then be deleted within 8 hours.
If the information is considered “dangerous for the government or society”, the site may be closed without a court order.
The nature of content that could be considered “dangerous” or “banned” has not yet been specified.
Osman Gunduz justified the severity of the legislation by pointing to similar laws being recently passed in Russia and Belarus.
Media law expert Khalid Aghayev told Meydan TV that up until now, such information has generally been targeted as slanderous and such accusations have been used to effectively intimidate site owners into removing or modifying information.
Mehman Huseynov, a well-known, Azerbaijani video-blogger was sentenced to two years in prison today on similar charges of slander.
Editor-in-chief of online newspaper Ayna called the arrest of Huseynov a “disgrace”.
He noted that the arrest of the blogger is part of the ongoing repression in the country and that it will continue in this manner until society reacts.
The idea of tightening internet regulation has been gaining ground in the Azerbaijani parliament in recent months.
Ruling New Azerbaijan Party member of parliament Malahat Ibrahimqizi suggested back in September of 2016 that new legislation be passed concerning online media in the country.
She cited Meydan TV and, in particular, Mehman Huseynov’s Facebook page ‘Sancaq’ as leading platforms that she “is ashamed of reading since they oppose the state, statehood and President [Ilham Aliyev]”.
“There is no any country in the world where the state leader is insulted this way”, Ibrahimqizi stated in the September 2016 parliamentary session.