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Twenty-five IFEX members call for government to rescind decision to ban foreign radio stations

(IRFS/IFEX) - The following is a joint appeal by 25 IFEX members:

JOINT STATEMENT:

We, the undersigned organisations promoting and defending freedom of expression worldwide, join the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) in condemning the recent decision to cease the broadcasts of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on national frequencies in Azerbaijan.

At the end of October 2008, Azerbaijan National TV and Radio Council Chairperson Nushiravan Maharramli announced this decision, which is supposed to go into effect on 31 December 2008. According to Maharramli, this decision is part of an ongoing process to eliminate all foreign broadcasters on national TV and radio frequencies in Azerbaijan.

"While Maharramli told the local press that this move will free up frequencies for local broadcast media initiatives, we know that there are plenty of empty frequencies in Azerbaijan. This is just an excuse to silence the foreign media," says IRFS Chairman Emin Huseynov.

While Azeri officials say that BBC, VOA and RFE/RL will be invited to continue their broadcasts via satellite, internet and cable, these are not viable options given the country's existing digital infrastructure. No satellite radio service is currently available in Azerbaijan and wireless internet is not widespread or financially attainable for the vast majority of Azerbaijan's citizens.

BBC, VOA and RFE/RL enrich the public debate in the country by providing citizens and residents with professional news and critical information from both Azerbaijan and the rest of the world. In addition, the three radio stations offer talk shows and educational programming crucial to promoting a public dialogue that Azerbaijan so desperately needs as it continues down its chosen path of socio-economic integration.

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by the actions taken by the Azerbaijan government to limit the free flow of information. We call on the government not to cease the broadcasts of BBC, VOA and RFE/RL on national frequencies and appeal to authorities to work towards finding another viable solution that will ensure that the Azerbaijan media landscape is as diverse and pluralistic as possible.

Signed:
Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Kazakhstan
Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Egypt
ARTICLE 19, U.K.
Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI), Brazil
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain
Cartoonists Rights Network, International (CRN), U.S.A.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), Canada
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, (CMFR), The Philippines
Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), Nepal
Freedom House, U.S.A.
Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova
Institute of Mass Information (IMI), Ukraine
Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria
Media Watch, Bangladesh
Mizzima News Agency, India/Burma
Norwegian PEN, Norway
Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP), Paraguay
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), U.S.A.

Updates alert on the government's decision to cease the foreign radio broadcasts: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98145/

Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety

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