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President quietly signs amendments limiting access to information

(IRFS/IFEX) - 10 July 2012 - The Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS) resolutely condemns the president's approving and putting into effect the amendments to the laws “On the right to obtain information”, “On state registration and state registry of legal entities” and “On commercial secrets” adopted by the parliament on June 12, 2012. By these amendments, the government is aiming to annihilate freedom of information and further restrict freedom of expression. These amendments will eventually foster an environment conducive to the growth of corruption.

IRFS believes that the reason behind the approval of the amendments by the president, who according to the Constitution must guarantee citizens' rights and freedoms, is his intention to conceal information on the illegal business activities of the ruling elite.

IRFS states that the new amendments are in clear contradiction with relevant international instruments, signed and ratified by Azerbaijan. Whereas the Constitution of the Azerbaijani Republic states that if there is any contradiction between local and international laws the latter must be applied. The new changes to the legislation show that the government fulfills neither its Constitutional nor international obligations. Both local and international legislation have already specified exact conditions under which access to information can be restricted, while the Azerbaijani government groundlessly extended the scope of these restrictive cases. There is no doubt that the new amendments will foster corruption and organized crime in the country.

IRFS restates that these amendments imply the government's aim to restrict the freedom of expression and to increase the control over mass media. Earlier citizens were somehow (after repeated inquiries or even court litigations) able to get information on founders of commercial entities and on individuals who carried out projects that had great significance for the country. However after the approval of these amendments it will be almost impossible to conduct public control, thus society will not be aware about the acts of bribery and corruption.

IRFS calls upon the Azerbaijani government to rescind these restrictive amendments, and to make the legislation regulating the freedom of information more open and more liberal.

In addition, the civil society representatives call upon the UN, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE to express their attitude towards the critical situation regarding the freedom of information in Azerbaijan and urge the Azerbaijani authorities to resolve these shortcomings.

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