INSTITUTE FOR REPORTERS’ FREEDOM AND SAFETY AND MEDIA RIGHTS ISSUE STATEMENT

October 19th, 2009
The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and Media Rights Institute condemn the government’s statement that announced that the decision to ban broadcast foreign radio stations via local FM frequencies in Azerbaijan will not change, and that the broadcasting of these radios is impossible.

On 30 December 2008 the broadcasting of “Radio Liberty,” “Voice of America,” and BBC radio stations via FM frequency was banned according to the decision that the NTRC issued. The government’s answer to the questions of local and international organizations to restore these radios' broadcasting has always been definite. The high ranking officials of the government – Presidential Administration Socio-political Department head Ali Hasanov and NTRC Chairman Nushiravan Maharramli both said that it is impossible to broadcast foreign radio stations via FM in Azerbaijan.

IRFS and MRI assess these opinions as contrary to the public interest and call on Azerbaijan’s government to make immediate changes in the legislation and restore the broadcasting of “Radio Liberty,” “Voice of America,” and “BBC” radios.

IRFS and MRI want to remind the government that recommendations concerning this problem were proposed in the report of the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Azerbaijan. In the fifteenth item of this document, it is recommended to fully implement the freedom of expression, and the freedom of both national and foreign independent information means (media, internet, radio or television). In the seventeenth item it is recommended to improve media freedoms, especially the opportunities of usage from the broadcasting, to execute OSCE’s recommendations regarding the ban of foreign radio stations via FM, to make quick amendments to the Law on TV and Radio Broadcasting in order to renew the licenses of international radio stations; to reconsider the decision on the radio broadcasters, and to permit the broadcasting of foreign radio stations via FM frequencies.

IRFS and MRI call on the government to carry out these recommendations, to end the occurrence of holding the free frequencies for TV and radio broadcasting unused, to remove the obstacles to create new radio and television channels; to remove legal and administrative barriers that curb domestic and foreign investments, science, and technology in this sector; and to restore the broadcasting of foreign radio stations on FM frequencies.