“Free song in non-free country”

October 21st, 2011
Today, a round table was held at the Azerbaijan Media Center as a part of the “Free song in non-free country” campaign. 

The aim of the campaign is to draw attention to the human rights problems in Azerbaijan during the run up to Eurovision -2012 song contest. The creators of the campaign are the Human Rights Club, the Peace and Democracy Institute, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, and the Alliance for Defense of Political Freedoms.
The coordinator of the Alliance, Anar Mammadli, said that human rights defenders are hoping that the campaign will help establish democratic freedoms in Azerbaijan, one of the main principles of the Eurovision song contest. Specifically, the priorities of the campaign are: to release political prisoners, provide equal access to radio and television, observe property rights, reform the court system, to simplify visa regime, and to put an end to the persecution of lawyers.
He regretfully noted that so far, there has been no movement on the realization of free expression, free press, and free speech in Azerbaijan. “We would like the world to know Azerbaijan as a country respecting fundamental human rights and freedoms” said Mammadli. According to him, they will hold further events as a part of the campaign.
The director of the Peace and Democracy Institute, Leyla Yunus, focused on the continuing problem of political prisoners. According to her, a new list of political prisoners have been compiled including the names of the prisoners involved in protests as well as Islamic Party leader, Movsum Samadov, other Islamic Party activists, and youth activists including Said Dadashbayli, who was charged with espionage. ”Our duty is to inform the international community about the real situation of human rights in Azerbaijan” said Leyla Yunus.
The coordinator of Human Rights Club said that since the beginning of October, a monitoring has been conducted in one of the institutions responsible for organizing Eurovision Song Contest. He also noted that the number of organizations supporting “Free Song in non-free country” campaign is increasing and now stands at 16. International organizations have also show interest in the campaign.
Leyla Yunus also said that appeals addressing the problems in Azerbaijan have been sent to every participant country of the European Broadcasting Union. “We are currently working on a new website about human rights” she said.
Human rights defender, Irada Javadova, focused on pressures against entepreneurs and independent lawyers. Other speakers also spoke about violations of law, and citizens’ increasing appeals to state agencies and courts.  They also spoke about the indifferent attitude of national TV channels towards these problems.
According to Eynulla Fatullayev, head of Movement for Human Rights, the campaign will not yield any results, because the nation wants to listen to music. They are not interested in the violation of human rights, and the government is becoming stricter.
Public Television channel (ITV) representative Tahir Mammadli considers that the Fatullayev doesn’t have the right opinion.  He says that   Eurovision is not a political event, it is just a song contest and he charged the human rights defender with “non-professionalism”
To note, the discussions have been held in a tense atmosphere. The human rights defenders are planning to continue the campaign and hold further events.