PHONELINES FAIL DURING VOA INTERVIEW WITH PERSECUTED JOURNALIST

April 11th, 2008

Yesterday on “Voice of America” radio a live discussion was conducted on “Pressure against Press Freedom and Journalists in Azerbaijan.”

Opinions were expressed in the discussion about the attacks against “Azadlig” correspondent Agil Khalil, particularly the events that have occurred over the past few days. The program’s announcer noted that they would create live phone connections with Yeni Nesil Journalist Union Chairman Arif Aliyev, “Azerbayjan” Newspaper Editor-in-chief Bakhtiyar Sadigov, “Voice of America” radio Baku representative Tapdig Farhadogflu and “Azadlig” newspaper Agil Khalil, so these people could express their position on these issues. Arif Aliyev was the first one to express his opinion, but the phone conversation was cut. The leaders stated that they would be contacting Arif Aliyev and then contacted Aliyev and Agil Khalil. IRFS notes that Khalil was contacted via a secret telephone number. At the same time VOA was unable to get in touch with Tapdigoglu and Sadigov. The annoucer of the program claimed that this was due to difficulty that was associated with achieving a phone connection in Baku. However in light of the high-profile nature of Khalil’s case, the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety suspects that there was intentional external interference in an attempt to derail the program.
Voice of America Azerbaijan head Bulud Mehmandarli, who is based in Washington, noted during this program that recently it has been difficult to contact people in Baku to have them speak on Voice of America programs.