The passage of new media legislation has had a positive influence on press freedom. Nevertheless, political interference and harsh economic conditions remain obstacles to the further development of free media in the country. Amendments to the Law on Mass Media came into effect in March 2002. Leading Azerbaijani press organizations applauded this development, as the amendments removed nearly all the registration requirements previously used to stifle print media. Existing laws governing television and radio broadcasting stand in contrast to these changes. President Heydar Aliev has the sole power to appoint members to the broadcast regulatory board. Ill-defined licensing procedures limit the growth of Azerbaijan's few independent broadcasters. Government lawsuits for libel threaten media outlets with severe fines and the prospect of closure. Many businesses are reluctant to pay for advertising in opposition media for fear of government reprisals. A government scheme to provide loans to struggling papers allows even greater room for political influence over the financially burdened independent press.