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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Azeri Court Orders Book on TV Channel to Be Destroyed

BAKU, Azerbaijan -- An Azeri court has ordered a book critical of the country's public television channel to be seized and destroyed, a decision the book's editor on Saturday called absurd.

Tuesday's order by a court in Baku added to concerns about press freedom in the oil-rich former Soviet republic.

The book, "Public Television As Reflected in the Press," is a mainly critical collection of articles compiled by Azeri nongovernmental organizations about the two-year-old channel.

The channel was founded at the recommendation of the Council of Europe, a human rights organization, as an alternative to state-controlled channels. Media observers say, however, that its content differs little from the main government channels. No one could be reached for comment at the channel late Saturday.

About 300 copies of the book were printed, and most were distributed among NGOs and journalists.

Rovshan Gadzhiev, the book's editor, called the court's decision "absurd" and vowed to appeal it.

"This is the first time in independent Azerbaijan that a court has handed down a sentence against a book," said Leyla Yunus, director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy, a Baku-based nongovernmental organization.

Western governments and press- freedom groups have voiced growing concern about freedom of speech in Azerbaijan. The government of President Ilham Aliyev has faced persistent criticism over the heavy-handed treatment of independent media.