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EU Criticizes Azerbaijan's Decision To Block Independent Websites

An EU spokeswoman has denounced the decision by a court in Azerbaijan to permanently block five online media outlets, including that of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service.

The court's decision was "not in keeping with the need for free, diverse and independent media in modern and democratic societies," Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, said in a May 14 statement.

The U.S.-based democracy monitor Freedom House also condemned the court's decision.

"By banning independent media websites, the Azerbaijani government has disproved President Ilham Aliyev's most frequently used argument that Azerbaijan enjoys freedom on the Internet," said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs at Freedom House, in a May 12 statement.

The Sabail district court in Baku ruled on May 12 that the Ministry of Transport, Communications, and High Technology's request for the blockage of access to the websites must be met.

RFE/RL said it will appeal the ruling, which it called "another blatant attempt" at silencing its reporting in the country.

In addition to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, the ruling affects opposition newspaper Azadliq, Meydan TV, and two other Internet TV programs.

The ministry has limited access to the sites since March 27 on the instructions of the Prosecutor-General's Office, which claimed they "pose a threat" to Azerbaijan's national security.