The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety condemns the decision adopted by National Radio and TV Council (NTRC) on 30 December to discontinue the broadcasts of foreign radio stations Radio Liberty, Voice of America and BBC via local FM frequencies as of 1 January, 2009.
NTRC considers that the broadcast of foreign radio stations through local frequencies do not conform to Azerbaijan’s law “On Broadcasting of National TV and Radio” and these radios can operate via internet, cable network and satellite.
IRFS notes that in Azerbaijan cable broadcasting is in a terrible state; in fact, it is practically non-existent. The government monopolizes internet infrastructure, and the lack of development will prevent any radio broadcasts. Regarding satellite broadcasts, over half of the people who listen to BBC, Voice of America and Radio Liberty, do so while traveling, however in Azerbaijan there is no system set-up like the SIRIUS satellite broadcasting system utilized in America for people to be able to listen to BBC, Voice of America and Radio Liberty while utilizing private or public transportation. The use of stationary satellite antennas can only be considered a supporting means of broadcast, as people in Azerbaijan mainly enjoy the radio because it is mobile, cheap and always accessible.
If need to consider that all of the local TV and Radio companies in Azerbaijan are operating under unofficial command of the government, and Public TV and Radio broadcasting serves interests of the government, not of the public.
As it is widely known already, Radio Liberty, Voice of America and BBC are the only broadcast media in Azerbaijan on which people with different and critical ideas are allowed to speak. In addition, these radio stations act as vital windows into the rest of the world and the Azerbaijani government's current actions will only serve to isolate this country and its people from the rest of the world.
IRFS calls for the Azerbaijan government to eliminate immediately the decision to cease the broadcast of foreign radio and TV stations in Azerbaijan, and extend the licenses of Radio Liberty, Voice of America and BBC, and to create necessary conditions for their activity in Azerbaijan. IRFS calls on the international community to condemn this decision and to start talks with the government of Azerbaijan to resolve this issue.