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GOVERNMENT BANS FOREIGN NEWS FROM FM RADIO

The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and other IFEX members have condemned the Azeri government's decision to cease the FM broadcasts of major international news organisations the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America in Azerbaijan.

Starting on 1 January, the three stations can no longer be heard on FM radio. Azerbaijan's National TV and Radio Council announced the decision as part of an ongoing process to eliminate all foreign broadcasters on national TV and radio frequencies in the country.

The decision is "illegal" and "not in the interest of the Azeri people," and "was made to protect the interest of Azerbaijan's corrupt officials and the ruling party," says IRFS.

The stations will be allowed to continue their broadcasts via Internet, cable, satellite and AM radio - but few Azeris have this access, says IRFS.

In a joint letter condemning the decision, 25 IFEX members said international news organisations add diversity and pluralism that is virtually non-existent elsewhere in the Azeri media. IRFS fears the ban will severely hamper objective information about the March referendum on whether to limit the number of terms the President can serve.

IRFS is calling on the government to rescind its decision, and the international community to condemn the move.

For those wishing to access the stations, visit:
- RFE/RL: http://www.rferl.org/section/Azerbaijan/151.html
- Voice of America: http://www.voanews.com/azerbaijani
- BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/azeri/
Also visit these links:
- IRFS: http://www.irfs.az/index.php?lang=eng
- Reporters Without Borders: http://tinyurl.com/9d8y98
- Committee to Protect Journalists: http://tinyurl.com/7el5v2
- IFEX joint action: http://tinyurl.com/7baq2o
(7 January 2009)

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