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Azerbaijani Parliament Passes Controversial Internet Libel Law


Azerbaijan's parliament has legalized tighter Internet controls in a move the country's opposition groups fear could be used to curb online dissent.

The parliament on voted on May 14 to make online libel and "abuse" criminal offences.

The new law allows for cases of slander deemed to be particularly serious to be punishable by up to three years in jail.

Parliament also agreed on increasing to three months the maximum sentence for so-called "administrative" arrests, under which detained opposition activists have often been held. The previous maximum sentence was 15 days.

Opposition activists typically use social media websites to coordinate their activities.

The international media rights group Committee to Protect Journalists said the new bill, if signed into law, would “rob the public of online news” and urged President Ilham Aliyev to veto it.

Earlier this month, Stefan Fuele, the European Union's Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, expressed concern about proposed moves to curb access to the Internet in the oil-rich nation.

Based on reporting by and AFP

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