Azerbaijani Lawmakers Approve Bill Toughening Internet Regulations

Azerbaijani lawmakers have approved legislation tightening rules for Internet use.

Parliament passed a bill that amends the Caspian nation's law on information on March 10.

It prohibits the posting of material promoting violence, religious extremism, terrorism, and ethnic, racial, or religious hatred, as well as calls for the forceful seizure of power.

The amendments also ban online distribution of false information and material that is offensive or violates privacy.

Critics of President Ilham Aliyev's government fear the state will use the rules as an additional tool to silence dissent.

Aliyev, in power since 2003, has shrugged off persistent criticism from Western governments and human rights groups of his treatment of opponents, independent journalists, and civil society groups.

Azerbaijan is rated as "Not Free" in Freedom House's overall freedom and media freedom indexes.

Based on reporting by and Interfax