State celebrates religious censorship

State celebrates religious censorship

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The State Committee held a conference in Baku on 23 September entitled
"Religious Expert Analysis: Law and Practice", it announced on its website
the same day. Also taking part were publishers, as well as representatives
of the Spiritual Values Promotion Foundation (which is subject to the State
Committee) and the state-controlled Caucasian Muslim Board, the only Muslim
organisation the government allows to exist.

State Committee Deputy Chair Gunduz Ismayilov told the conference that
"harmful literature" was rarely encountered because of the law mandating
censorship and the "close cooperation" between the State Committee and
publishers and authors.

Nahid Mammadov, the head of the State Committee's "Religious Expert
Analysis" (Censorship) Department, claimed the state censorship was in line
with international practice. He claimed that censorship also protected
against piracy and tax evasion.

He maintained that the control stickers enhance trust in religious
literature. "Every citizen reads religious literature with the appropriate
sticker and refuses any other literature offered to them," the State
Committee website cited him as saying. "It also means that our citizen,
without knowing the contents of the book, will be able to determine whether
the text of the book is malicious thanks to the control sticker."

Mammadov also told the conference that 42 shops across the country have the
required state licence to sell religious books and items, though more than
100 exist. He complained that the unlicensed shops "create certain
problems", though he does not appear to have specified what these are.

Mammadov said that the State Committee had banned the import of 63 out of
1,603 publications in 2017; 52 out of 1,704 in 2018; and 158 out of 2,412
in January to September 2019. The State Committee had banned the
publication in Azerbaijan of 4 out of 214 publications in 2017; 26 out of
197 in 2018; and 17 out of 192 in January to September 2019. (END)

Full reports on freedom of thought, conscience and belief in Azerbaijan

For more background, see Forum 18's Azerbaijan religious freedom survey

Forum 18's compilation of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in
Europe (OSCE) freedom of religion or belief commitments

A printer-friendly map of Azerbaijan

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