Lack of press freedom in Azerbaijan on full display during elections
Many have grown critical of the state of press freedom and democracy in Azerbaijan following recent elections that were widely reported as corrupt.
Free and fair elections are one of the essential tenants of a successful democracy. Having citizens voice who they believe should be their political leaders is an important way in which governments and their subjects can maintain a strong and healthy relationship.
In Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliyev at one point was up 72.76 percent during the election – the only problem was that this was on October 8th, one day before the elections were set to begin.
The "AppGate" Scandal
According to Al Jazeera, a mobile application that was designed to track the progress of the election reportedly showed that the autocratic president who has been in power since 2003, was "victorious" before votes were even cast.
While these results were reportedly because of a "bug" with the program, the actual outcome of the elections was not that much better, according to the news source. On the actual day of the election, Aliyev received about 84.55 percent of the vote with the next closest competitor receiving about 5.53 percent.
Some precincts were able to garner 100 percent support for the president elect, leading many critics, both international and domestic, to speak out against the government.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reports that they believe the elections were conducted unfairly. This was due in part to the restrictions that were placed upon free expression and media control within the industry.
Because of these criticisms, Bloomberg reports that the OSCE may not be invited back to monitor elections in the future.
This move marks a trend that has become all too common in Azerbaijani society. The Index on Censorship explains that reporters and activists have been the subject of both physical and moral attacks within the country. In 2005, journalist Elmar Huseynov was murdered, with a similar fate falling upon Rafiq Tagi in 2011. Both cases have yet to be solved.
While these cases are extreme, measures to prevent free speech have been taken quite regularly. The climate is already tough to begin with as the state owns most media outlets. On top of this, those who do operate independently have had trouble staying afloat financially because of the government urging advertisers not to support these outlets.
Along with these actions, the government has employed strict limitations on what can and cannot be published as well as censoring internet outlets like Facebook.