The United States and Europe are reacting with concern to Azerbaijan's proposal to discontinue local radio broadcasts of international media such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) at the end of the year.
Today, the U.S. Department of State, issued this statement:
- "The United States is deeply concerned by reports that Azerbaijan’s National Television and Radio Council may discontinue local radio broadcasts of international media...The United States believes that international broadcasters such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the BBC have enriched public debate in Azerbaijan and contribute to Azerbaijan’s democratic development. Discontinuing such broadcasts would send a disturbing message. We are seeking clarification from the Government of Azerbaijan."
In an interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Anne Derse, the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, said:
- "Radio Azadliq has made a tremendous and invaluable contribution in Azerbaijan over the past 15 years. It is an important part of the United States and Azerbaijan's very strong partnership and I know how many great numbers of Azerbaijanis listen to day Radio Azadliq each day…We are deeply concerned about any implication that VOA, RFE/RL or BBC might not be able to operate in Azerbaijan. So we will certainly be working with Azerbaijan to find a way to ensure that the Azerbaijani people still have access to these important sources of independent news…As we just saw in the American elections, an informed citizenry is a key part of democracy and obviously an independent, objective and professional media plays a key role in informing the citizenry."
Peter Semneby, The European Union's (EU) Special Representative for the South Caucasus said:
- "I am concerned that foreign-owned radio stations may be deprived of their frequencies by the end of the year…I hope Azerbaijan will not go down this road but, on the contrary, that it will work towards ensuring a media landscape that is as diverse and pluralistic as possible. The media situation in Azerbaijan is very high on our agenda and we will continue to follow the situation."
Andres Herkel, the Council of Europe's Special Representative to the region, said:
- "I think this is not only a question about specific radio stations in Azerbaijan, but a question about media liberty itself…The unanimous assessment from international organizations is that media freedoms are restricted in Azerbaijan. In such conditions, I think it would be very counterproductive to implement further restrictions. We hope the Azeri government reconsiders this plan and decides to keep these radio stations on their current frequencies."
About RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service
Broadcasting from Baku, RFE/RL's Radio Azadliq broadcasts 10 hours a day or orignial programming, offering listeners up-to-the minute news and information and a rich menu of live, interactive, call-in shows on local, social and political issues. Among the most popular programs are the daily one-hour "Dear Baku" and two-hour, prime time "After Work" shows. They have stimulated vigorous public debate about corruption, infant mortality, the state of national health care, and other issues. In May, the Union of Women Journalists of Azerbaijan presented Radio Azadliq with the "Most Successful Media Organization of the Year" Award. [Visit Radio Azadliq online in Azeri