AFP reported that the court, on the 5th of September,was going to hear an unprecedented defamation lawsuit by Azerbaijan against two French journalists in a case that critics describe as an attempt by the ex-Soviet republic to “export its censorship to France.”
The case opens a day after a media investigation revealed that Azerbaijan has allegedly been using a a 2.8-billion-dollar slush fund to buy political influence in Europe and boost the country’s international image.
— The Justine (@the_justine) September 5, 2017
A French court began hearing a lawsuit by Azerbaijan’s government against two French journalists it accuses of defamation, in a case described by the defendants and media freedom activists as an attempt by Azerbaijani authorities to export censorship beyond the country’s borders.
The lawsuit against the two television journalists has been slammed by the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) as “an act of intimidation highlighting the Azerbaijani government’s contempt for free speech.”
This is the first time a foreign government has brought a defamation suit against journalists before a French court, according to RSF.
Investigative journalist and television host Elise Lucet and journalist and film-maker Laurent Richard are accused of defaming the Azerbaijani government by referring to it as a “dictatorship” when the former Soviet republic received a visit from then French president Francois Hollande two years ago and the reporting was titled: Mon président est en voyage d’affaires (When my President is on a business trip).The journalists were at the time working on a programme for France 2 television called “Cash Investigation” about the background to Hollande’s trip.
Richard was arrested and later released in Azerbaijan at the end of his reporting trip to cover Hollande’s visit to the oil-rich country of 10 million people in in the South Caucasus region.