On December 10, the Milli Majlis has adopted the draft law on “Media” in the first reading. If the parliament adopts the new bill, the main laws on the media – the law on “Mass Media” and the law on “Television and Radio Broadcasting”, will be repealed. Unfortunately, the process of adopting the new law is currently being carried out without examination the relevant standards and expert opinion of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, of which Azerbaijan is a member.
We remind that when the Republic of Azerbaijan became a member of the Council of Europe, serious reforms were made in the media legislation, necessary changes and additions were made to the Law on “Mass Media” adopted in 1999 in the light of the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the OSCE on media freedom, and a new law on “Television and radio broadcasting”, which meets the standards of the Council of Europe, was adopted in 2002. And in 2005, the Law on “Access to Information” was adopted, which covers the mechanisms of information disclosure in the context of the implementation of commitments to the Council of Europe. The drafting and adoption of these laws and amendments were carried out with the close participation of local experts, the Council of Europe and the OSCE structures.
We note with regret that the initiative of the draft law “On Media” was submitted to the Milli Majlis without explaining the public needs, holding public discussions in the country, as well as the non-studying of international standards. The text of the bill was made public the day before the parliamentary debates. By doing that, both the existing Law on “Access to Information” (which requires the disclosure of draft proposals to the public at least one month in advance) and international agreements to which Azerbaijan is a party have not been complied with.
We believe that the law regulating freedom of expression and the activities of the media must be adopted, taking into account the obligation to listen to all stakeholders, pass a lengthy public.
debate test and bring national legislation into line with the Council of Europe’s practice. Our initial assessment shows that there are serious discrepancies between the provisions of the draft law on the “Media” and international treaties to which Azerbaijan is a party, in particular, the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and the media. And all of these threatens the protection of freedom of expression and the free operation of the media in the country. In general, the current draft law does not comply with the basic principles of the right to freedom of expression.
In view of all these, we call for the suspension of the discussion of the draft law “On Media” in parliament under the current conditions, and propose the establishment of a new working group with the invitation of international experts on the adoption of this bill. Based on the experience of previous years, we consider it necessary to study the proposals of international organizations, in particular the experts from the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Anar Mammadli, Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre,
Khalid Aghaliyev, Media Rights Group
Bashir Suleymanli, Institute for Citizens Rights
Baku, Azerbaijan December 17, 2021