Today the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety is unveiling a web-banner campaign.
IRFS is calling on local and international organizations and mass media institutions to join in support of keeping Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) and the British Broadcasting Company on FM Radio in Azerbaijan.
IRFS has created a web banner in both Azeri and English that reads “Free societies have free radio stations. We support keeping VOA, RFERL and BBC on fm radio in Azerbaijan.” IRFS asks that organizations display this web-banner (which is attached to this email) on their sites throughout the month of December as the government of Azerbaijan makes its final decision about the fate of BBC, VOA, and RFERL.
In late October, Azerbaijan government officials announced their intentions to discontinue the broadcasts of these three radio stations by end of this year. According the government, the stations will only be allowed to broadcast via satellite and internet, however there is no satellite radio in Azerbaijan and portable internet is not widespread or financial attainable for most of the people in Azerbaijan. Government officials claim that the FM frequencies are needed for local programming, however sources with expertise in this area tell IRFS there are plenty of empty frequencies in Azerbaijan and will be even more when the country switches to digital broadcasting, as is planned.
Civil society and international observers say that decision could be political. Azerbaijan’s broadcast (TV and radio) media is 100% monopolized by people subservient to the incumbent government, with the exception of VOA, BBC, and RFERL. These three radio stations provide vital information to citizens in Azerbaijan about events within the country and around the world. In addition, the stations are known for organizing live, on-air roundtable discussions on pressing social, economic and political issues where people can freely express their opinions.