Staff of Closed Private Broadcaster ANS TV Appeal to President of Azerbaijan

February 1st, 2017

Staff of the shut-down ANS Television and Media Company has appealed to President of Azerbaijan Republic Ilham Aliyev.

The appeal starts with the following lines: “The reasons we are taking up your time with an open letter are severe. Despite all our efforts and our searches for justice from door to door, ANS’ activities have been stopped for nearly seven months. We, as a television and radio station and an internet portal, have been deprived of the opportunity to serve our beloved Azerbaijan.”

The letter continues by talking in detail about ANS’ role in the history of Azerbaijan as the first independent television channel in the post-Soviet region. It reminds the measures undertaken to bring ANS TV to the level of such giants as CNN, BBC and Reuters.

“With its activities and values that it inculcates, ANS is much more than just a TV and radio station and portal. We have tried to show citizens their real situation without lying to them. We have talked about the existing problems, been sincere with our viewers and listeners, explained the importance of fighting corruption and bribery as a public scourge, but stressed that the primary cause of all our evils is the Karabakh war, and even told the international organisations criticising the existing situation of human rights and democracy in Azerbaijan that the problems in all areas could be tolerated until the day our territorial integrity is restored,” the appeal reads.

“Our company, which has remained closed for half a year, believes patiently and confidently and with a trust in you that the situation will be clarified and it will restore its activities soon. ANS has become an epitome of trust and confidence in society. Our biggest achievement in our 25-year history is the recognition of ANS as the consistent bearer of patriotic ideas. It was due to this asset that great leader Heydar Aliyev once treated ANS as the most important media outlet in the country in some cases; he ensured that the main news stories necessary for the state and the leader were broadcasted just by ANS. He repeatedly said ANS has an excellent feeling for what is most important and is capable of presenting it to the society in a simple and believable way.

You have also repeatedly cited ANS’ services, particularly in educating the youth in the spirit of patriotism, as an example. We are proud that ANS has a role in the formation of an Azerbaijani citizen who turns 25 today, and our youths, who sacrificed their lives in the April battles, went to their last combat having also passed through the consistent patriotism education that they had received from ANS.

We are not going to take up your time by recalling the dramatic, bloody and glorious events that Azerbaijan experienced in the period of independence and how ANS worked at those times. We just want to underline that there has not been one significant event in the life of Azerbaijan over these 25 years that ANS has not witnessed or participated in; Nakhchivan’s full blockade in 1990, Heydar Aliyev’s access to the world only through ANS when he was working in an environment of complete prohibitions, the period 1990-92 which was full of coups and military actions, the 1993 Ganja riot, the coup attempts of October 1994 and March 1995, the civil strife of 2003, and dozens of other events that require an extended list to mention…

And, it was ANS which informed the society of each of these events in the interests of our state. Though it may sound far from modest, we should note that today Azerbaijan’s information society and our environment in general looks destitute without ANS. As if, there has been news shortage in Azerbaijan since 18 July 2016. The closure of ANS urges people to track the real news and end up on social networks, where organisations and forces not loving Azerbaijan are active and where ownerless, address-less and at times critical pieces of information await people. Today, the number of people watching TV is rapidly decreasing. It may also be a peculiar form of protest by people who are dissatisfied with the closure of ANS. When ANS returns, they will also come back to watch their favourite channel.

Today, the door of ANS’ office premises is sealed off. For more than half a year, we have been deprived of the opportunity to touch our property. We have purchased each one of this property ourselves, without taking any loans. We have invested our income in this sector, and brought the most modern equipment and technologies to Azerbaijan. They tell us that work is underway, investigations are conducted, etc. But they do not say when this work will finish. On the one hand, they prohibit us from going in to remove the dust from our property. On the contrary, the owner of our premises requires us to vacate the building as soon as possible, and they cut off our electricity and gas. To remove us from the few rooms, where we have taken shelter, they almost put us under blockade so that we cannot stand it anymore and leave the building. How and why should we leave? After all, we have also played some part in the creation and establishment of this state. Are not we supposed to earn our daily bread and do what we love to do benefitting Azerbaijan along the way? After all, keeping a company like ANS, which has significant obligations before various organisations, closed for half a year is per se a big punishment already! This means that even if we are guilty, we have served our sentence. Moreover, it is officially stated that no criminal case has been launched against the leadership of ANS. If so, then let someone show us the way. Let him tell us what steps we need to take to restore the activities of our channel.

Today, Azerbaijan, our people, our state and its Supreme Commander-in-Chief needs ANS! The following comments made by President’s aide on socio-political issues Ali Hasanov allow us to say this: Today, the closure of ANS concerns the President and the first lady more than anyone. We are also concerned by the fact that we have caused concern to your family, Mr President!

We kindly ask you to receive and listen to us and to let us eliminate the concern caused to you with our participation. You are the only force who can put an end to these concerns, Mr President!

Background: On 29 July 2016, Baku Court of Appeal revoked the license of ANS Independent Broadcasting & Media Company issued on 25 October 2013. The lawsuit against ANS had been brought by the National Television and Radio Council, which claimed that following the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey, ANS TV broadcasted materials supportive of terrorism.

The leadership of ANS rejects the accusations. However, ANS Director-General has called its reporter’s participation in the press conference of Fetullah Gulen (Ed. a US-based Turkish cleric accused of masterminding the 15 July coup in Turkey) a ‘mistake’ and apologised to the peoples of Turkey and Azerbaijan.