The media climate is growing so grim in Azerbaijan that some observers are reminded of an old Soviet-era adage that just about the only safe topic for public discussion is the weather.
A government crackdown over the past year, carried out in the wake of the Euromaidan revolution that toppled the government in Ukraine, has muzzled independent voices and public critics of President Ilham Aliyev’s administration in Azerbaijan.
The crackdown is continuing unabated. Earlier in January, the alternative news site Mediaforum.az announced its closure. It blamed complicated new requirements for receiving grants; rules, it alleged, had prevented the site from receiving financing. The online entity Channel 13, which once posted some 15 video stories a day, also has shut down.
“Our bank accounts were frozen and we could not receive money from our donors,” Channel 13’s former general manager, Anar Orujov, told EurasiaNet.org. “We had to stop working.” Orujov now studies abroad.
Other outlets have been forced to close offices in Baku and shift operations outside Azerbaijan.
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Nargiz Rashid is a pseudonym for a freelance journalist who specializes in covering Azerbaijan.