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Azerbaidjan3 September 2002

Official secrets decree threatens press freedom

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a presidential decree on official secrets that tightens government control over news content.

"The decree hampers the work of journalists, violates their right not to reveal their sources and paves the way for self-censorship," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to President Heidar Aliev. "It is even more unacceptable because you have pledged to the Council of Europe to respect European standards on freedom of information", the letter added, calling on the government to withdraw the decree.

The 28 August decree requires the media to check if a news item involves state security before putting it out. In cases of doubt, a presidential commission has seven days to decide whether or not it can be published. If the item is deemed to involve state security, the commission can demand access to the journalist’s sources.




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