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Azerbaijan sues French reporters who called it ‘dictatorship’

A court will today hear an unprecedented defamation lawsuit by Azerbaijan against two French journalists in a case that critics describe as an attempt by the ex-Soviet republic to “export its censorship to France."

Azerbaijan sues French reporters who called it 'dictatorship'
AFP
The case opens a day after a media investigation revealed that Azerbaijan has allegedly been using a a 2.8-billion-dollar slush fund to buy political influence in Europe and boost the country’s international image.
 
The lawsuit against the two television journalists has been slammed by the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) as “an act of intimidation highlighting the Azerbaijani government’s contempt for free speech.”
 
“Not content with eradicating all pluralism at home, the regime is now targeting its critics abroad,” RSF said in a statement.
 
Investigative journalist and television host Elise Lucet and journalist and film-maker Laurent Richard are accused of defaming the Azerbaijani government by referring to it as a “dictatorship” when the former Soviet republic received a visit from then French president Francois Hollande two years ago.
 
This is the first time a foreign government has brought a defamation suit against journalists before a French court, according to RSF.
 
The case is due to begin on Tuesday in a court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.
 
The journalists were at the time working on a programme for France 2 television called “Cash Investigation” about the background to Hollande’s trip.
 
Richard was arrested and later released in Azerbaijan at the end of his reporting trip to cover Hollande’s visit to the oil-rich country of 10 million people in in the South Caucasus region.
 
Azerbaijan is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index. Its government has “systematically eliminated what remained of media independence.”
 
“We must not let Baku export its censorship to France,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said.
 
by Rory Mulholland

MEDIA

France slams Belarus’ ‘arbitrary’ crackdown on foreign media

France on Sunday condemned an "arbitrary" crackdown against the media in Belarus after the accreditation of several journalists working for foreign media was withdrawn in the wake of disputed presidential elections.

France slams Belarus' 'arbitrary' crackdown on foreign media
Belarus opposition supporters protesting against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on August 27. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP
“The arbitrary measures taken by the Belarusian authorities against journalists violate press freedom,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.
   
“I call on the Belarusian authorities to reverse these measures without delay,” he added, saying that the crisis in Belarus requires “the establishment of an inclusive national dialogue”.
   
“Repressive measures against journalists cannot help,” he said.
   
Belarusian authorities on Saturday withdrew the accreditation of journalists working for several foreign media, including AFP, ahead of a major demonstration Sunday challenging the results of the presidential election.
   
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has faced unprecedented protests since the disputed August 9 election in which he claimed a landslide victory with 80 percent of the vote in a poll
that the opposition says was rigged.
   
 
Belarus government spokesman Anatoly Glaz said the decision to revoke the media accreditations was taken on the recommendation of the country's counter-terrorism unit.
   
He did not specify how many journalists were affected by the measure, but foreign media including the BBC, Reuters and Radio Liberty reported the withdrawal of accreditation of several of their journalists.
   
Belarusian journalists working for Agence France-Presse also had their accreditation revoked.
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