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Azerbaijan22 December 2008

Threat to local broadcasts by foreign radio stations

Reporters Without Borders condemns the government’s threat to stop foreign radio stations from broadcasting on local frequencies from the start of next month under a law requiring them to sign a contract with the Azerbaijani authorities in order to be able to continue. The Azeri-language programmes of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, BBC and Voice of America are the most likely to be affected.

“The threat to these radio stations completely contradicts the commitments Azerbaijan gave when it joined the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call for the maintenance of foreign news broadcasts in Azerbaijan. If the solution is signing a contract with the state, we hope this will be possible. It if is not, it will clearly have been a political decision.”

Azerbaijan undertook to democratise itself when it joined the OSCE in 1992 and the Council of Europe in 2001. Local broadcasting by RFE/RL, BBC and Voice of America has been under threat since last summer. The National TV and Radio Council is due to reach a final decision on 25 December. If it allows them to continue broadcasting, it is expected to request content changes.

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