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Azerbaijan Guarantees Freedom of Speech – But Only for Eurovision Guests

After the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest in Germany in May, the next wave of arrests of political and public figures began in Azerbaijan, and pressure on media increased, reports Kultura.az.

Recently, however, Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizadeh handed a letter to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), reassuring the Eurovision Song Contest organizers that the Azerbaijani government will provide a safe and secure environment for all visiting Baku for the contest. According to esctoday.com, the Azerbaijani government further guarantees that European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) will be respected and all present — delegates, crews, press and fans — will be granted freedom of expression and assembly.

Kultura.az, however, points out that the government’s written guarantee was handed to EBU only after Azerbaijani and international human rights activists began to call on contest organizers to renounce Baku’s hosting of the song contest if Azerbaijan’s government doesn’t stop suppressing citizens’ right to freedom of speech and assembly. Human rights campaigners also demand the release of activists and those sentenced for political reasons.

It follows from the contents of the letter, Kultura.az surmises, that the guarantees are provided for the duration of the contest, but this will hardly satisfy the demands of human rights activists, who will continue the movement in the protection of human rights.