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Azerbaijan Attacks Media

Azerbaijani authorities have taken A-N-S, the country's first and biggest independent television and radio broadcaster, off the air. In addition to its regular programming of local, national, and international news, along with sports, entertainment, and children's programming, A-N-S carries programs produced by the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the British Broadcasting Corporation. The government of President Ilham Ailev has also restricted independent press in Azerbaijan.

In a written statement, the U.S. State Department says that "by ordering independent television and radio station A-N-S to cease broadcasts and by evicting [the] independent Azadliq newspaper and [the] Turan news service from their shared location, the government is seriously impeding the ability of independent journalists to work in Azerbaijan."

In its most recent human rights report, the U.S. State Department said that while Azerbaijani law provides for freedom of the press "and specifically prohibits press censorship; the government often did not respect these rights in practice." The State Department said, "The government intimidated and harassed the media, primarily through defamation suits [and] prohibitively high court fines for libel."

The International Crisis Group, an independent Brussels, Belgium-based monitoring group, says "the closure of A-N-S will stifle public discussion and information sharing that is so essential to acceptance by Azerbaijani society of any resolution to the conflict" over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The United States "call[s] on the government of Azerbaijan to honor its commitment to democracy and freedom of the press."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.