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Presidential decree seeks to stealthily reintroduce greater state control over media, says IRFS

(IRFS/IFEX) - IRFS condemns President Ilham Aliyev's 7 May 2008 decree, which, in a roundabout manner, has amended the Law on Mass Media, in part by re-introducing a component of it that was abolished years ago at the demand of international organizations.

President Aliyev's decree refers to "part 10" of Article 19 of the Law on Mass Media. However, Article 19 currently contains no part 10. The Article in question, on the "suspension of production and distribution of mass media products, or their termination," simply states that "the production and propagation of mass media products can be temporarily suspended or ceased only through a court decision or a decision of the mass media institution's founder."

Prior to the adoption of the current version of the law on 28 December 2001, this Article did have a part 10, which read as follows:

"The appropriate executive administration organ can put forth a claim in court for cessation of the production and dissemination of a mass media product under the following circumstances: 1) if the publication does not fulfill the demands in the fifth paragraph of Article 3 of this law; 2) if information or appeals are published (or broadcast) that damage the country's territorial integrity, security or public order, including pornographic material; 3) if it is determined that a mass media institution is funded, in contradiction to the law, by a government structure of a foreign country or physical and legal person; 4) if, within one year, a mass media institution is found responsible for writing a biased article three times."

President Aliyev's decree, by circuitous means, appears not only to re-institute this defunct component of the legislation, but seeks also to stipulate exactly which "executive administration organ" it should be that can put forth such a claim in court. For point one, Aliyev authorizes the Press Council; for point two he authorizes the Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Interior; and for points three and four he authorizes the Justice Ministry.

IRFS calls upon President Aliyev to rescind this decree, and to desist from making reference to legislation, as if it were still in effect, that was abolished previously and no longer exists.

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