Two French journalists are on trial accused by Azerbaijan’s government of defamation for calling the country a “dictatorship.”
Media freedom activists see the unusual trial as a dangerous precedent by a foreign government to intimidate journalists and export censorship beyond its own borders.
Azerbaijan sued journalists Elise Lucet and Laurent Richard for defamation over a 2015 investigative report for France-2 television. They are on trial Tuesday in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders is testifying for the defense, as are an Azerbaijani journalist and human rights activists living in exile.
Oil-rich Azerbaijan’s government has long faced criticism for alleged human rights abuses and suppression of dissent. Its president Ilham Aliyev succeeded his father as long-time leader and secured sweeping new powers in a recent referendum.