editor of two websites appears in court

According to local media reports, SalamNews and InterAz founder and editor Matlab Baghirov appeared in court on February 27, 2024. He has been in pretrial detention since January 31, 2023.

According to pro-government media, Baghirov was accused of operating an Iranian spy network. The Ministry of the Interior confirmed these allegations in an interview with Abzas Media in February 2023, saying the arrests were part of the “special operation against an Iranian spy network.”

“They carried out propaganda in favor of Iran through social networks, abused the freedom of religion in Azerbaijan, and carried out the tasks of the Iranian special services in order to undermine the traditions of tolerance formed in the country,” Elshad Hajiyev, the head of the ministry’s public relations department, told AbzasMedia in February 2023. 

In total, some 39 individuals were rounded up, including Baghirov, as a result of the operation. 

The Ministry of the Interior also said the group was engaged in acts of provocation and disruption under the guise of religion. 

The arrests took place at a time, when relations between Iran and Azerbaijan were at their lowest following an armed attack on an Azerbaijani embassy in the capital of Iran on January 27, 2023. As a result, one embassy security personnel was killed and two others were injured. 

Azerbaijan described the attack as a terrorist act and issued a warning to Azerbaijani nationals not to travel to Iran unless necessary. 

The investigation against Baghirov was finalized on February 20, 2024. 

Azerbaijan blocks access to Pro-Iran websites – multiple reports

As of October 23, Azerbaijan blocked access to a number of pro-Iran websites. The decision follows a rift in diplomatic ties between Azerbaijan and Iran over the course of the past two months. 

According to IranIntl website, Azerbaijan blocked access to these websites to prevent Iranian and religious propaganda.  

The blocking was first reported by journalist Elchin Alioglu via Facebook page. Alioglu also said that access to the religious video series spreading Iranian propaganda on YouTube was also blocked.