The leading Azerbaijan pro-opposition newspaper Azadlyg (Freedom) has been closed by authorities in a move that is being criticized as suppression of free speech.
The publication was ‘indefinitely suspended’ after the state publishing house refused to continue printing copies because of debts owed. Debts worth around $25,000 were owed to the government-backed publishers who are now refusing to allow the newspaper to continue operating.
The editorial board for Azadlyg have labelled the decision to close the paper as politically motivated. Rakhim Gadjiev, deputy editor-in-chief to the paper told reporters “this is a result of the targeted squeezing the ‘Azadlyg’, which openly writes about human rights violations and corruption in the top echelons of power”.
This suspension is the second time Azadlyg has been closed down. In November 2013 ‘Azerbaijan’ publishing house discontinued the papers production again due to debts. The newspaper however continued to operate shortly after following protests and support by the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan who helped raise funds to pay off the debts.
Azadlyg has struggled financially in since its launch but has continued to remain one of Azerbaijan’s leading anti-regime voices. In March of this year the newspaper was awarded ‘Freedom of Expression’ prize by the Index on Censorship.
It is unclear at this stage if Azadlyg will be able to continue operations in the future.