European Federation of Journalists

Azerbaijan: EFJ and IFJ support the #WeDoNotWantLicensedMedia campaign

Credits: #IcazəliMediaIstəmirik campaign.

The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) support the campaign #IcazəliMediaIstəmirik (#WeDoNotWantLicensedMedia) launched in February 2023 by a group of independent journalists in Azerbaijan. Journalists are calling on the government to repeal the new media law and remove the requirement for registration with the Media Registry, as it gives the State too much control over the media.

On 30 January 2023, 37 Azerbaijani journalists and media experts published a statement according to which the Azerbaijan’s Media Development Agency refused to include veteran media outlets in the Media Register and issued ‘warnings’ to dozens of media outlets and journalists.

United under the hashtag #IcazəliMediaIstəmirik, the journalists are protesting the new Media Law, which came into force last year, as well as the Media Registry, an electronic information resource managed by the Media Development Agency. With this new campaign, journalists are demanding that the government repeal the law, alleging it violates Azerbaijan’s Constitution and removes the requirement for registration with the Media Registry. The journalists argue the registry could silence Azerbaijan’s remaining independent media platforms and further erode an already restricted media environment.

The Media Registry system became operational in October 2022. According to the Media Law, both print and online media must apply to the Media Agency within six months after the media registry is established. The deadline expires this month. According to a statement by the Media Agency, 200 media outlets and 180 journalists applied to the media registry. Of these applications, 160 media outlets were registered, while the remaining 40 media outlets were denied registration.

The Media Development Agency plans to take those media outlets that failed to register to court. The courts will decide whether to allow them to continue their work. As for the journalists who refused to register, they won’t be considered journalists.

“We strongly condemn this brutal interference by the public authorities in the work of newsrooms and journalists,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “It is not up to the state or its agencies to decide who is a journalist. This over-regulation reflects a desire for state control of the media. We expect the state to protect the independence of journalists and their ability to investigate, not to control them!”.

Read our alert on the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism, here.