RFE/RL Blasts Azerbaijan Over Website Ban Ruling

RFE/RL has sharply criticized an Azerbaijani Supreme Court ruling upholding a government ban on the company's Azerbaijani website, calling it a "blunt use of state power to suppress independent media."

"We learned in 2014, when Azerbaijani authorities closed our bureau without regard to law or due process, that we, and all independent media, are a target," RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said in a statement on June 5.

"This ruling confirms that," Kent said of the June 4 court decision.

RFE/RL has now lost two appeals in its efforts to lift the ban on its Azerbaijani Service's website, Azadliq.org, "despite the fact that Azerbaijani authorities have failed in every instance to produce evidence supporting their allegations," the statement said.

Azadliq.org has been blocked in Azerbaijan since March 2017 at the instruction of the Prosecutor-General's Office, which has claimed that the website posed a "threat" to the Caspian Sea country's national security.

The move, which also affected opposition newspaper Azadliq and Meydan TV as well as two Internet TV programs, has been condemned by rights groups and Western governments.

President Ilham Aliyev has ruled the oil-producing former Soviet republic with an iron hand since shortly before his father, Heydar Aliyev, died in 2003 after a decade in power.