Censorship of religious materials is highly restrictive in Azerbaijan. All religious materials (literature, audio and video) produced in and imported into Azerbaijan must receive special approval from the State Committee, which also decides on the number of copies each title may be printed or imported. In December 2011, Criminal Code Article 167-2 specified this in great detail. Though at first it looked like sacred books (e.g. Bible, Koran) would be exempted, believers report that since 2008 even these books were banned. Border controls (even in the airport) were made stricter to ensure that no uncensored books would be imported. Religious materials are often confiscated at entry or departure. Religious materials sent by mail are also checked. They are all directed to the International Post Office in Baku. The recipient needs to pick up the materials sent to him, but before he can do so, each title needs to be approved by the State Committee first. Only after approval can he receive the materials. No printing house or photocopy shop in Azerbaijan will (re)produce religious materials (especially those in Azeri) without written permission from the State Committee. It is too risky for them. Very rarely is such permission granted. Most of the time, the answer is negative or doesn’t come at all. The State Committee pro-actively searches for bookshops breaking the censorship regulations on religious materials. Each shop needs a license to sell these materials. Though there are a few shops who proceed without such a license, their number is declining. The requirement of repeated registration and the highly restrictive censorship make life for believers in Azerbaijan rather difficult. Officially, fewer and fewer churches exist. More and more groups find themselves in the ‘illegal’ circuit with all possible consequences (e.g. raids, detentions, confiscations, fines, etc.). Despite the increased pressure, the Church continues its work and is slowly growing. Learn More & Pray
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