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Thirty IFEX members sign on to appeal to Parliament deploring proposed changes to NGO law

(IRFS/IFEX) - Thirty IFEX members have signed on to a joint letter to the parliamentary chair deploring the proposed changes to the Azerbaijan Republic Law on Non-governmental Organisations.

Mr. Oqtay Asadov
Chairman
Milli Mejlis
Parliament prospekti, 1
Baku, AZ1152 Azerbaijan
Fax: +99412 498 97 22
E-mail: [email protected]

15 June 2009

Respected Mr. Chairman,

We, the undersigned members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), express our grave concern about the proposed changes to the Azerbaijan Republic Law on Non-governmental Organisations that are slated to be discussed in an extraordinary session of Azerbaijan's Parliament (Milli Mejlis) on 19 June 2009. A number of these proposed changes threaten to eradicate independent non-governmental organisations in Azerbaijan, including those that protect freedom of expression.

The proposed changes to the Azerbaijan Republic Law on Non-governmental Organisations include: outlawing the activities of organisations that receive more than 50 percent foreign funding; forcing NGOs that earn more than 50 percent of their funds through commercial activities to become commercial organisations; banning the activities of organisations that are not registered; banning the activities of branches and representations of registered organisations until they are added into the state registry; basing the registration of foreign organisations and foreign-funded organisations on an opinion issued by the relevant executive authority; and making it illegal for foreigners who are not permanent residents of Azerbaijan and people without citizenship to be founders of NGOs. (Please see here for a full list of the proposed changes: http://www.irfs.az/content/view/2436/lang,eng/ ).

We would consider the approval of such changes an egregious step backwards for Azerbaijan and a serious blow to the Azerbaijani government's self-professed aspirations for "Euro-Atlantic" integration. A number of the proposed changes blatantly contradict provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and obligations that Azerbaijan has undertaken before the Council of Europe, the European Union, the United Nations, the OSCE and other international bodies.

Taking into consideration the crucial role that civil society plays in protecting freedom of expression and defending all human rights, we, the undersigned, call for:

1) - Azerbaijan's Milli Mejlis not to adopt the proposed changes and amendments to the Azerbaijan Republic Law on Non-governmental Organisations in their current form;

2) - Further public discourse on the proposed changes, in particular via the publicly-funded print and broadcast media;

3) - Elimination of those proposed changes that violate the ICCPR, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and international obligations that Azerbaijan has undertaken before the Council of Europe, European Union, United Nations, OSCE and other international bodies;

4) - A transparent policy-making process involving law makers, government officials, representatives of civil society and citizens of Azerbaijan.

Cc: Milli Mejlis Deputies
Parliament prospekti, 1
Baku, AZ1152 AZERBAIJAN
Fax: +994 12 498 97 22
E-mail: [email protected]

Cc: President Ilham Aliyev
President of the Azerbaijan Republic
Office of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic
19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Baku AZ1066 AZERBAIJAN
Fax: +994 12 492 0625
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

Cc: Prof. Elmira Suleymanova
Office of the Ombudsman
40 Uz. Hajibeyov Street
Baku AZ1000, AZERBAIJAN
Fax: + 994 12 498 8574
Email: [email protected]

Signed:

Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
ARTICLE 19
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Association of Independent Electronic Media
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Centre algérien pour la défense et la promotion de la liberté de la presse
Committee to Protect Journalists
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Freedom House
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Institute of Mass Information
International Press Institute
Maharat Foundation
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Media Watch
Mizzima News
Pacific Freedom Forum
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
PEN International
Public Association "Journalists"
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Press Freedom Committee
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