In the context of an already extremely confined space for independent journalism and media in Azerbaijan, the new media Law in Azerbaijan will have a “chilling effect”, said the Council of Europe’s body of constitutional legal experts, the Venice Commission, in its joint opinion together with the Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, adopted at its plenary session last week.
The opinion on the then-draft law was requested on 2 February 2022 by the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. It is based on the text of the Law as adopted and on online meetings with journalists, media lawyers, international community representatives and the OSCE. The Commission regrets that the rapporteurs have not been able to have an open dialogue with the authorities and that the authorities did not provide clarifications on certain provisions of the law, other than the written comments on an earlier draft of the opinion.
The Venice Commission concludes that “the Law attempts to regulate almost everything related to the media sector in Azerbaijan, including on-line media,” and has “a problematic focus on restricting the activities of the media rather than creating the necessary conditions enabling the media to do fulfil their ‘public watchdog’ role”. Many of its provisions are not in line with European standards on freedom of expression and media freedom, and therefore, the Law should not be implemented as it stands.