For decades, there have been restrictions on the freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. According to Amnesty International, this freedom entails the “right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas without fear or interference" . While included in the Azerbaijani Constitution, the freedom is frequently violated. In 2015, the Committee to Protect Journalists placed Azerbaijan fifth on its list of The 10 Most Censored Countries, since defamation is criminalized and the state runs most of the media outlets . As a party to the UDHR, the ECHR, and the ICCPR, the government has failed in its agreements to uphold the freedom of expression, consequentially committing numerous human rights violations. The state continues its violent crackdowns on journalists and protestors, in 2013 imprisoning more journalists than “Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan combined” . With knowledge of Azerbaijan’s history as an ASSR under the Soviet Union during the Cold War, this article will examine the state of its modern-day society, years after its split from the USSR.
A History of Violations
Since President Aliyev rose to power in 2003, freedom of expression in Azerbaijan has continued to deteriorate through state violence against critics. The following graph uses data from Freedom House’s 2002-2015 Azerbaijan Reports to show the decline in press freedom, with higher scores representing less press freedom . In 2015, Freedom House gave Azerbaijan a score of 87: not free . A repressive political environment brings declining press freedom, a result of restrictive laws on freedom of expression and extensive state control of media. Authorities’ “violence, abductions, torture, beatings, and the illegal detention of journalists”  violates rights not only in national legislation, but regional and international treaties Azerbaijan is party to.
In 2014, the state owned 80 percent of all national newspapers , enabling regular dissemination of pro-government agendas. The public is unable to access critical journalism due to the state’s pursuit of opposing publications through violence, new laws, and fines on publication houses. Consequentially, citizens lack “reliable, comprehensive, and objective news on human rights issues relevant to Azerbaijan” . For years, the National Television and Radio Council has had the sole power to hand out broadcasting licenses. This is a true detriment to the independent media of Azerbaijan, as the NTRC is state-funded and “the president directly appoints all of its nine members” . Without a regulatory agency independent of the state, critical and independent media will continue to suffer, or become nonexistent.
The past ten years have exposed a persistent trend in repression of media and protestors. In 2006, journalists covering the election were “beaten, arrested, and prevented from filming debates” . This violence continued in 2008, with attackers enjoying “almost total impunity” . In 2012, the Arab Spring influenced Azerbaijanis to march in the streets, resulting in the state's use of force on demonstrators and journalists . Charges against journalists are falsified  so as not to seemingly infringe on national, regional, and international legislation, allowing the state to ‘legally’ prosecute its opposition.
Data from Freedom House Country Reports on Azerbaijan, 2002 - 2015 
Statements on the Freedom of Expression
The government doggedly denies that violations of freedom of expression take place in Azerbaijan. In November 2015, Ali Hasanov, the President’s Aide for Public and Political Affairs, stated the following:
“The government will continue its efforts to strengthen the independence of mass media… journalists should… refrain from misusing the favorable conditions created for them." 
In reality, the government has done nothing to improve the independence of media in the country. Bills that would decriminalize defamation continue to sit in parliament since 2007, and violence against opposition remains an ingrained facet of society.
In 2012, OSCE representative Dunja Mijatovic discussed authoritarian violence against journalists in Azerbaijan, calling it an “embarrassing trend” . Her statement exemplifies the inconsistency between the values of the OSCE and Azerbaijan’s government, questioning Azerbaijan’s continued participation in the OSCE what with their conflicting beliefs on freedom of the media. As long as statements deemed oppositional by the government are punished, Azerbaijani politicians are incorrect in their claims that freedom of expression exists in the country.
Human Rights Watch also commented on the state of freedom of expression, claiming that it is “severely limited” in Azerbaijan, and “authorities have failed to hold accountable the people responsible for assault” . While the government stated its intent to prosecute suspects in the face of frequent attacks, it consistently fails to commit to its words. It is clear that the suspects are either forces of the state, or the state is uninterested in prosecuting those who independently carry out its desires.
The Internet remains a point of contention for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, with the government very recently beginning to regulate its content. It is easy to predict that these actions will escalate in the future, relegating the Internet in Azerbaijan to another form of state media, or a new venue in which to track down and punish dissenters. In May of 2013, the National Assembly passed amendments to the criminal code, making Articles 147 on criminal defamation and 148 on insult apply to statements made on the Internet.
Without international intervention on behalf of Azerbaijani human rights or a change in power from President Aliyev, freedom of expression will continue to deteriorate at the alarming rate seen in recent years. It is essential for the government to halt its violence against journalists and retroactively prosecute those who have attacked dissenters. The future for freedom of expression in Azerbaijan looks bleak without loosening state control over the media, but unless there is a significant change in government, the population will continue to suffer .