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Proposed changes to legislation would restrict mass media activities

(IRFS/IFEX) - Azerbaijan's government is considering making changes and amendments to four laws to restrict the operation of the mass media. The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) was told by MP Penah Huseyn that the presidential administration put forth a proposal to the Milli Mejlis (Parliament) to make additions and changes to laws relating to the mass media, freedom of information, operation and investigation activities, intelligence and counterintelligence activities and obtaining information.

According to Huseyn, these additions and changes were discussed in a meeting at the Parliament State Building of the Law Policy and Human Rights Permanent Committees. This issue has been included in the agenda of the Milli Mejlis meeting to be held on 12 February 2010.

According to the proposed addition to Article 60 of the Law on Mass Media, except in operation and investigation cases, following someone and subjecting them to video, photo or voice recording by media representatives without them knowing it or with them objecting to it will be punishable as defined by law. This addition is also being considered for Article 6 of the Law on Obtaining Information, Article 21 of the Law on Operation-Investigation Activities and the Law on Intelligence and Counterintelligence Activities, according to Huseyn, who also noted that these anti-democratic changes are contrary to the Constitution of Azerbaijan and the European Convention. "The government will try to substantiate this addition with the amendment made to the constitution last year. But this issue is a subject of the European Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms," Huseyn said.

On 18 March 2009, in a referendum, an amendment was made to Article 32 (right to inviolability) of the Constitution: "Except in cases defined by law, nobody can be followed or subjected to video or photo recording, or these kinds of actions, without him knowing it or with him objecting to it."

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