Eurovision in Azerbaijan human rights pledge

Euronews News Report

Euronews said that “”The head of the European Broadcasting Union said the contest helped put Azerbaijan under the spotlight. “The fact is that journalists are not going to ignore (the country) but to look,” said Ingrid Deltenre. She revealed that the EBU has asked the Azeri government for an explanation following reports that journalists had been arrested.””

View report in full: http://www.euronews.com/2012/05/22/eurovision-in-azerbaijan-human-rights-pledge/

Vice- President of European Commission, Nellie Kroes speaks about Media Freedom in Azerbaijan

Nellie Kroes speaks about Media Freedom in Azerbaijan in her blog post: 

The world looks to Azerbaijan:

http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/neelie-kroes/press-freedom-day-azerbaijan/

She says in her blog post “Eurovision should be a unique chance to celebrate our unity and diversity, to glimpse into others’ cultures, and (thanks to digital technology) to interact with them. And of course, to have a good time. The EBU, under whose auspices Eurovision is organised, have stated that Azerbaijan’s violation of freedom of speech is unacceptable – and indeed recently discussed this issue in detail“.

Eurovision Organizer Defends Azerbaijan Song Contest

by Stefan Niggemeier, Spiegel Online

Extract:

Ingrid Deltenre heads the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Azerbaijan, a country widely criticized for human rights violations, at the end of May. In a SPIEGEL interview she defends the choice of the controversial location and warns that politicizing the contest could kill it.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ms. Deltenre, in 2010 the general assembly of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the Eurovision Song Contest, agreed to a resolution in Baku condemning the arrests and intimidation of journalists in Azerbaijan and calling on the authorities to take action against abuses. Two years later, have those demands been met?

  Deltenre:Now, as before, there is intimidation of journalists, which shows that there is still a long way to go.

 SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did the statement have any kind of impact at all?

Deltenre: How does one measure a positive effect? Last Wednesday, we held a conference here in Geneva regarding media freedom in Azerbaijan. That the government, represented by presidential advisor Ali Hasanov, participated, that they sat down at the table with Azerbaijani and international non-governmental organizations and were willing to discuss every critical issue, shows a great willingness to open a dialogue. A dialogue is always a good first step in the right direction.

Complet article: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/organizer-defends-decision-to-host-eurovision-song-contest-in-baku-a-832456.html 

EBU Conference: Pledge for Independent Media and Free Access to Media of Choice
http://www.ebu.ch/en/union/news/2012/tcm_6-74861.php

“Selling Azerbaijan”: Time Magazine extract

In this weeks’ edition of the Time magazine a lengthly feature was published on Azerbaijan, called “Selling Azerbaijan”.  It refers to the Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Baku and the issues surrounding it.

EXTRACT: Time Magazine
Selling Azerbaijan

By William Lee Adams

For Aliyev, that criticism must sting, especially since his government has already bowed to pressure from the EBU to ease some of its more repressive policies during the contest. On April 22 the government sanctioned a protest in Baku — only the second in seven years — during which opposition groups called for Aliyev’s resignation, chanting, “Eurovision without political prisoners.” “Eurovision is shedding light on the darkness,” says Milli, the activist. “The best way to expose injustice is to come to Azerbaijan and make this the most subversive event in the history of Eurovision.

EBU Conference: Pledge for Independent Media and Free Access to Media of Choice

Geneva, 2 May 2012 – How should governments ensure that the freedoms of expression and information take precedence over political or economic interests, and that people have free access to their chosen media? These questions were central to a conference today at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) about media freedom in Azerbaijan, where the EBU will stage the 57th Eurovision Song Contest finals, on May 22, 24 and 26. 

The conference brought together representatives of the Council of Europe, the Government of Azerbaijan, several EBU television and radio members, the EBU itself and various human rights and press organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Azerbaijan Media Center and Azerbaijan League of Independent Journalists (see separate list of participants). 

During two plenary and three breakout sessions, the participants of the conference debated such topics as “independence of the media”, “the harassment, intimidation and arrest of journalists”, “free access to media of choice” and “responsibilities of the media and journalists”. 

In closing, Mr Hasanov said his government would investigate fully a number of alleged cases of jailed and mistreated journalists, which were raised by various participants throughout the day. He also said the Azeri leadership was open to changing state legislation to reduce defamation to a civil, and not a criminal, offence.

EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre, who chaired the conference, said, “The discussions took place in a very constructive and open atmosphere of mutual respect. All participants agreed that free and independent media, together with technological infrastructures and legislative frameworks that allow unrestricted, uncensored distribution of media content, are cornerstones of any democracy.” 

At the same time, Ms Deltenre said, all parties recognized that media freedom is only applicable if the media also respect democratic principles and human rights. She said, “Media that foster hatred and distribute content of racist and discriminatory nature should not be granted such freedom.” 

During the talks, participants expressed a desire to see the EBU and the Council of Europe stage a follow-up workshop in Baku in the latter half of 2012, principally for the benefit of Azeri journalists. Ingrid Deltenre said the EBU would gladly be instrumental in such an event, which would in principle focus on quality of journalism and professional best practices, as well as media independence. 

Various other ideas were also tabled to push for better working conditions for journalists and greater media freedom in Azerbaijan, and the EBU, backed by the Council of Europe, has committed to the following:  

• An EBU-led roadmap to turn the Azeri state broadcaster into a true public service entity
• Implementation of a modern, industry regulated code of professional conduct for journalists in Azerbaijan
• Intensive EBU training of Ictimai TV staff on strategic, editorial and management matters

Press contact: 
Karen Mazzoli
EBU Media Officer
mazzoli@ebu.ch
Tel: +41 79 752 45 49
@EBU_Eurovision

About the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)
The EBU serves 85 national media organizations in 56 countries in and around Europe. It represents its Members and promotes the values and distinctiveness of public service media in Europe and around the world. The Eurovision and Euroradio networks deliver news, sports, events and music to EBU Members and other media organizations. Services to Members range from legal advice, technical standardization and development to coproduction and exchange of quality European content.  For more information about the EBU: www.ebu.ch and www.eurovision.net/