Censorship tightened on religious materials

By August 1, 2012

Azerbaijan (MNN) — The reins are tightening on what is and isn’t allowed to be sold in Azerbaijan—including religious materials.

Christians in Azerbaijan face more restrictions with the amendment passed by parliament last month censoring all religious materials.

According to The Voice of the Martyrs, USA's source Forum 18 News Service, all religious materials in Azerbaijan must have a state-issued verification mark in the form of a sticker before they can be sold.

Religious materials subject to censorship include electronic and hard copy literature, audio, and video.

The amendment created a new Article in the Code of Administrative offenses. It says anyone found selling religious products without state verification can face fines and the materials confiscated.

Several religious committee members told Forum 18 that they rarely bring religious literature into Azerbaijan through customs for fear of having them confiscated.

A Tax Ministry spokesperson stated that the amendment was created to make sure all commercial religious literature is getting taxed. Censorship is not required for religious materials and books produced non-commercially.

This amendment adds to the compulsory censorship that religious materials are already subject to by the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations. Shops selling religious literature have been subject to compulsory licenses since 2009.

The State Committee has the ability to restrict the number of copies which are printed or imported, check shop contents selling religious literature, and keep a list of banned religious materials.

The Expertise Department responsible for that list refuses to make it public.

A member of the Baku-based religious community told Forum 18, “This is just the latest measure to restrict religious activity.”

Pray for Azerbaijani Christians to persevere in their faith and in distributing God’s Word despite added difficulties.

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