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U.S. Acknowledges Reports of Satellite Interference

Washington -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov at the State Department, Washington DC, 03Jun2013.
Speaking yesterday to reporters during the U.S. State Department's morning briefing, spokesman Patrick Ventrell took a question about reports that RFE/RL's satellite programming to Azerbaijan has encountered targeted interference.

Ventrell said: "We have seen reports that RFE/RL and other outlets have encountered difficulties broadcasting satellite programming into Azerbaijan. We've been in touch with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Azerbaijani government to discuss this issue. We think that Radio Free Europe is an important contributor to the Azerbaijani media landscape. It's reporting provides a much-needed model of objective and independent journalism in Azerbaijan and the United States strongly supports media freedom and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan."

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) referred to the reported interference yesterday in a blog post on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's recent meeting with EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. Despite declarations by Barroso that "fundamental freedoms" were "high" on the agenda, energy issues dominated the Brussels talks, according to CPJ, and Azerbaijan's press freedom record got "an easy ride."

According to CPJ research, Azerbaijan is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Europe and Central Asia: at least seven critics of the government are currently in Azeri prisons.

Earlier this month, Aliyev signed into law a bill that would criminalize what it calls defamatory and insulting views posted on the Internet.

Azerbaijan will hold presidential elections in October.