Azerbaijan suspends TV station’s license for Turkey coverage

New York, July 19, 2016 – Azerbaijani regulators should immediately reverse their decision to suspend the license of broadcaster ANS TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Broadcasting regulators yesterday said they were suspending the station’s license to broadcast for one month because of its coverage of events in Turkey.

In a statement, Azerbaijan’s National Television and Radio Council said it was suspending pro-government television station ANS TV’s broadcasting license because of the channel’s coverage of a July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey, including plans to air an interview with Fethullah Gülen, a preacher whom the Turkish government accuses of leading a terrorist organization and “parallel state structure” within Turkey from his self-imposed exile in the United States. The Turkish government has alleged that his followers were behind the attempted coup. The statement alleged the station was inciting terrorism, and said its decision followed protests from the Turkish Embassy in Baku.

“Azerbaijani officials should stop their shameful attempts to censor the media and allow ANS TV and all journalists to report the news without interference,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Senior Research Associate Muzaffar Suleymanov said. “Foreign embassies should not make editorial decisions for television stations, and journalists have a right to interview anyone, regardless of the subject’s political affiliation or allegations made against them.”

Azerbaijan’s state-owned news agency APA reported that the broadcasting authority accused ANS TV of repeatedly violating national media laws, and said that the station’s reporting on events in Turkey had affected relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey.

CPJ last year ranked Azerbaijan as the fifth most censored country in the world, and among the world’s worst jailers of journalists.