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Azerbaijan's Aliyev Signs Law Simplifying Media Shutdowns

BAKU -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a law making it easier for his government to shut down media outlets, particularly those with foreign financing.

Under amendments to the Caspian Sea state's law on mass media, any outlet that receives financing from abroad or is found guilty of defamation twice in a year can be shut down by a court ruling.

The legislation was passed by parliament on December 16 and signed by Aliyev on February 3.

Ten days after parliament approved the amendments, investigators and armed police raided RFE/RL's bureau in the capital, Baku, confiscating computers and holding staff members in a room for several hours.

Prosecutors said at the time that the raid was part of an ongoing investigation into RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service as a foreign-funded entity.

Advocacy groups say Aliyev's government has targeted independent media as part of what Human Rights Watch recently called a "horrific crackdown" on civil society and critics.