The OSCE / ODIHR Assessment Mission released a report on the pre-election situation in Azerbaijan on March 29 on the eve of the presidential elections on April 11. In the section on the pre-election atmosphere, it is said that the CEC has designated 168 sites across the country for campaigning. A number of opposition parties protested against the presidential elections and organized rallies. After their completion, opposition activists were questioned by the police, and some were detained. The opposition condemns the shortening of the campaign period to 22 days, which limits their access to the media and gives the incumbent president a serious advantage in the elections.
The section on the media said that defamation and slander remain criminal offenses, and since 2016 these provisions also apply to online resources and are punishable by imprisonment up to three years.
The mission expressed concern about the number of journalists and bloggers serving prison sentences on charges that appear to be unrelated to their professional activities.
The main sources of political information in Azerbaijan remain 11 television stations with a national coverage, and the print run of print media continues to decline. About 80% of the population have access to the Internet.
A number of ODIHR interlocutors expressed distrust of the independence and impartiality of traditional media, arguing that social networks are the only sources of important information.
Since March 2017, after amendments to the Information Act, the Ministry of Communications has obtained the right to block media sites without a court decision. Some critical websites are inaccessible in Baku and the regions. The report also contains a lot of reference material on the legislative framework and other protocol data. There are no elections or recommendations in the report.
The full text of the report: OSCE/ODIHR published interim report on upcoming presidential election in Azerbaijan