When Azerbaijan served as chair of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, it scoffed at the spirit and purpose of the organization and moved vigorously to squash all forms of free speech at home. Now that Baku no longer holds the top spot, civil society activists are worrying about what Azerbaijani authorities will do next.
May 14 marks a new low in European cynicism: Azerbaijan, a country ruled by an authoritarian government, which in recent years has stifled a free press and muzzled free speech, is assuming the chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, the organization’s decision-making body.
Many in Azerbaijan had entertained hopes that, following his re-election in late 2013, President Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan would ease repressive policies targeting free speech and the flow of information, especially on the Internet. Unfortunately, it is now clear such hopes were misplaced.