‘Singing for Democracy’ – Eurovision puts autocratic Azerbaijan in rights spotlight PDF Print E-mail

“Standing on a peninsula that reaches out into Baku’s Caspian Sea bay, the sparkling new Crystal Hall is a symbol of Azerbaijan’s hopes and ambitions for next month’s Eurovision song contest,” AFP reports:

As well as building the ultra-modern venue at breakneck speed, the ex-Soviet state has hung out Eurovision flags across the capital as public anticipation grows ahead of an event watched by an estimated 125 million viewers. ….But campaigners hope that it will also draw international attention to alleged human rights violations in Azerbaijan, an oil-rich, mainly Muslim but officially secular state led by strongman President Ilham Aliyev.

Rights groups say that freedom of expression is being suppressed and dissenting voices silenced as the authorities seek to enforce stability in a country that went through war and political turmoil after the Soviet collapse. Local activists have set up a campaign called Sing for Democracy in an attempt to ensure that politics joins pop at centre stage in media coverage of the contest.

“Eurovision must be yet another tool to promote Azerbaijan’s European integration, first of all through the improvement of the situation with human rights,” said Rasul Jafarov (above) of Sing for Democracy.

The 28-year-old human rights activist came up with the idea of exploiting the contest to highlight the authoritarian regime’s rights record when Azerbaijani duo Ell & Nikki won last year’s Eurovision, giving the country hosting rights.

“We have asked the City Council of Baku if we can have an open-air concert” but it referred the request to the Ministry of Culture, he tells the Frankfurter Rundschau, a leading German newspaper.  But they have a “plan B” if they’re denied permission.

“We can stay in a night club in town, owned by a foreigner and therefore does not need approval from the authorities.”

He is a firm believer that the involvement of each individual counts if you want to make a difference.

“I am originally from a non-political family, except my grandmother who has always heard Radio Liberty and BBC children and tells us what’s going on in the world.”

As a student, he began to get involved after a meeting of the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Baku where he got to know people who freely expressed their political views and criticized the government.

“That impressed me and influenced me greatly.”

Now he is a full-time activist, working with organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, he says.

The “Sing for Democracy” campaign is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

 

http://www.demdigest.net/blog/2012/04/singing-for-democracy-eurovision-puts-autocratic-azerbaijan-in-rights-spotlight/

 
The human misery behind the glitz of Eurovision PDF Print E-mail

The deterioration of human rights in Azerbaijan is badly out of tune with the sunny image the song contest wants to promote, write Jerome Taylor and Richard Hall

It is seen by Britons as a celebration of kitsch – a harmless event which millions watch despite our chance of victory being close to nil. But for many citizens of this year's host country, Azerbaijan, the Eurovision Song Contest has brought misery as the government has forcibly evicted thousands from their homes in the run-up to the competition.

When Azerbaijan won the right to host Eurovision, the government of President Ilham Aliyev saw a chance to showcase the gas-rich country's burgeoning economy. Activists were optimistic the high-profile event would pressure the authoritarian regime to address its abysmal human-rights record.

But rights groups say the situation is now worse. A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month revealed a "beautification" scheme for the capital Baku has led to thousands of people being evicted from their homes, often in contravention of court orders.

The story told by residents of 5 Agil Gurliyev Street is one example. The nine-storey tower block overlooks the Baku Crystal Hall Stadium, a 25,000-seat arena being built to host the contest. Many in the building were forced to leave with very little notice and without proper compensation, says the HRW report. Those who stayed had electricity and gas cut. The building is set to be torn down to make way for a "resort zone", to be used by visitors attending the competition.

The Aliyev government says the demolition has nothing to do with Eurovision. But the forced evictions are a small part of a larger human-rights problem. After his father Heydar died in 2003, President Aliyev introduced some increasingly authoritarian measures. Backed by billions of dollars from a booming oil and gas sector, he has yet to win a fair election and has cracked down on opposition voices.

Inspired by the Arab Spring, last March opposition groups led a series of protests in Baku and in other major cities against corruption, cronyism and the lack of democratic progress. Scores were arrested and imprisoned, including opposition politicians, journalists and bloggers. Human-rights groups estimate more than 60 people in Azerbaijani jails are political prisoners. Late last year the Azerbaijani government had to assure the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – the organisers of Eurovision – that freedom of speech would be guaranteed for all participants, delegates and visiting press. Azeri bloggers and human-rights groups were quick to remark the same privileges are not extended to them. "Azerbaijan will no doubt offer an opulent stage to voices from across Europe, but outside the concert hall, few critical voices are tolerated," said Amnesty International programme director John Dalhuisen.

While some call for a boycott of the competition, not all activists believe it is necessary. Instead, many hope media scrutiny accompanying such an international event will help spotlight their plight. "I don't think a boycott will actually do much," explains Rasul Jafarov, a prominent human-rights campaigner who is part of a coalition of rights activists that has come together under the banner Sing for Democracy. "Instead what we want to see is journalists, politicians and those on the delegations look into what is happening in our country."

Others believe Eurovision should take a more critical line. Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, has called for the EBU to seek assurances from the Azerbaijani authorities that they will halt all further expropriations of properties until they can be carried out in a transparent manner.

But the EBU is unlikely to become embroiled in the debate surrounding Azerbaijan's human-rights. It has repeatedly stated Eurovision is a non-political event. A spokesman said last week Eurovision "can act as an agent of change", adding that the EBU would be "disappointed" if more countries boycotted the event.

The Independent

 
Pomp und PR in Baku PDF Print E-mail

von Hubertus Volmer


 

Aserbaidschan ist beides, Unterdrückung und Moderne. Deutsche Firmen verdienen daran, und in Berlin feiert Bettina Wulff mit der aserbaidschanischen First Lady. Schließlich hat das Land Öl und Gas. Beim Eurovision Song Contest in Baku soll die Fassade den Blick auf die korrupte Realität verstellen.

Baku putzt sich heraus. Die aserbaidschanische Hauptstadt will modern und westlich wirken für ihre Besucher. Seit kurzem sind 500 Taxis im Stil der bekannten Londoner Droschken auf den Straßen von Baku unterwegs, 500 weitere haben den Produktionsstandort Shanghai bereits verlassen und sollen Aserbaidschan Anfang März erreichen. Die Taxigesellschaft sucht schon jetzt Chauffeure für die neuen Autos.

Für die meist selbstständigen Fahrer der alten Lada-Taxis sind das schlechte Nachrichten. Ihre Wagen dürfen nicht mehr als Taxis erkennbar sein, auch vom Flughafen werden sie vertrieben. Die Schweiz mit ihren bescheidenen 19 Punkten war nicht der einzige Verlierer des Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf.

Das wissen vor allem die einstigen Bewohner der Häuser in der Nähe des "Platzes der Nationalen Flagge". Ihnen und den wenigen, die hier noch ausharren, hat Aserbaidschans Grand-Prix-Sieg von 2011 nur Ärger gebracht. Neben der Riesenfahne, auf einer Landzunge im Kaspischen Meer, entsteht in nur acht Monaten die "Baku Crystal Hall", in der im Mai der deutsche Teilnehmer Roman Lob singen wird. Geld spielt keine Rolle: Zwölf Gebäude mit insgesamt 282 Wohnungen mussten dem Multifunktionsbau weichen, sagt Zohrab Ismayil n-tv.de. Er ist der Vorsitzende der Bürgerrechtsgruppe Public Association for Assistance to Free Economy, die sich für wirtschaftliche Rechte und gegen Korruption einsetzt.

"Der feste Wunsch nach Westen"

Der ESC hat ein Land in den Fokus gerückt, das normalerweise am Rand der europäischen Aufmerksamkeit liegt. Ell & Nikki hieß das Duo, das die größte Schlagerparty der Welt im vergangenen Jahr zum ersten Mal nach Baku holte. Die beiden waren das perfekte Team, um Aserbaidschan als modernen Staat darzustellen: Nigar Camal alias Nikki spricht neben Aserbaidschanisch und dem eng verwandten Türkischen auch Englisch und Französisch, ihr Kollege Eldar Qasimov spricht Russisch, Englisch und Deutsch. Wer glaubt, damit seien die beiden Ausnahmen in ihrer Heimat, der irrt: "Es gibt ein sehr gutes Bildungssystem in Aserbaidschan", sagt Tim Schröder, Südkaukasus-Experte von Amnesty International, "die Menschen dort sind sehr gut ausgebildet. Sie können sich auch über Medien aus dem Ausland informieren. Was ihnen fehlt, ist Meinungsfreiheit." Laut Amnesty gibt es derzeit 16 gewaltlose politische Gefangene in Aserbaidschan.

Geografisch liegt Aserbaidschan zwischen Russland, Georgien, dem Iran und dem noch immer verfeindeten Armenien. "Wir haben eine östliche Mentalität und den festen Wunsch, den westlichen, europäischen Weg zu gehen", sagt der Abgeordnete Samad Seyidov, der für die postkommunistische Regierungspartei "Neues Aserbaidschan" im Parlament in Baku sitzt. Doch der Weg nach Westen ist weit. Nach westlichen Maßstäben gibt es keine freien Wahlen. Präsident Ilcham Alijew ist der Sohn des langjährigen Staatschefs Heydar Alijew. Wer sich auf der Internetpräsenz der aserbaidschanischen Botschaft über Alijew senior informieren will, findet an prominenter Stelle den Link zu einer Webseite, auf der in postsowjetischem Pomp dem "nationalen Führer Aserbaidschans" gehuldigt wird.

Kritiker sind "bezahlte Handlanger"

Seit 2003 ist Sohn Ilcham im Amt. Wer dessen Regierung kritisiert, riskiert Verfolgung. "Es gehört schon einiger Mut dazu, sich in Aserbaidschan für die Menschenrechte zu engagieren", sagt Amnesty-Experte Schröder n-tv.de. Die offiziellen Medien des Landes werfen den Bürgerrechtlern vor, mutwillig den Ruf des Landes zu beschmutzen. Solche Artikel klingen so: "Der Versuch von jenen, die ein kulturelles Ereignis politisieren wollen, enthüllt wieder einmal, dass die, die sich selbst Opposition nennen, in Opposition zu ihrem Volk und Staat sehen." So stand es unlängst in der Parteizeitung "Neues Aserbaidschan", die dabei gleich allen Kritikern des Regimes vorwarf, bezahlte Handlager "pro-armenischer und anti-aserbaidschanischer Kreise" zu sein. In einer Mail an n-tv.de schreibt Rasul Jafarov, der die Kampagne "Sing for Democracy" organisiert, dies sei leider der typische Tonfall in den Zeitungen seines Landes.

"In Aserbaidschan gibt es im Augenblick zwei große Stränge der Repression", erläutert Schröder. Das eine sei ein sehr engmaschiges Kontrollnetz, das die Regierung über die Medien geworfen habe: "Jede Zeitung, jeder Sender wird überwacht." Der zweite Strang sei die Verfolgung von Leuten, die sich kritisch äußern. "Sie werden wegen angeblicher Verleumdung oder Beleidigung angeklagt. Um sie zu verurteilen, werden ihnen sehr häufig auch Drogen untergeschoben."

Schröder sieht den ESC als Chance. Er nimmt an, dass die internationale Aufmerksamkeit bereits die Freilassung von politischen Gefangenen bewirkt hat. So führte Amnesty Ende 2011 eine weltweite Kampagne für den Blogger Jabbar Savalan durch, der über Facebook zu Protesten aufgerufen hatte. Savalan war im Februar 2011 verhaftet worden und wurde wegen angeblichen Drogenbesitzes verurteilt. "Kurz nach Weihnachten ist er dann freigelassen worden", sagt Schröder. "Wir vermuten schon, dass dies passiert ist, um Kritikern im Vorfeld des Song Contest den Wind aus den Segeln zu nehmen."

Freiheit nur für die Gäste - abseits der Bühne

Die Hoffnung auf Veränderung durch Popmusik haben auch Bürgerrechtler in Baku. Jafarov etwa begrüßt einen Vorstoß des Menschenrechtsbeauftragten der Bundesregierung, Markus Löning. Der FDP-Politiker hatte die Mitglieder der deutschen Delegation dazu aufgerufen, in Baku das neue Menschenrechtslogo auf T-Shirts oder Buttons zu tragen. Bislang ist unklar, ob dies passieren wird. Allerdings unterstützt der deutsche Jurypräsident Thomas D eine Amnesty-Aktionaus Anlass des ESC: "Jeder soll sagen und singen können, was er will", lässt sich der Rapper von Amnesty zitieren. "Gebt Baku eine Stimme!"

Sollten sich Thomas D oder auch Stefan Raab oder ihr Schützling Roman Lob in Baku zu Menschenrechten äußern, müssten sie wohl keine Repressionen fürchten: Im Oktober hat Aserbaidschan nach längerem Zögern schriftlich zugesichert, dass für die Teilnehmer des ESC Meinungs-, Rede- und Pressefreiheit gelten wird. Wohlgemerkt: nur für die ausländischen Gäste. Gefordert hatte diese Zusicherung der Veranstalter, die European Broadcasting Union, die stets den unpolitischen Charakter des Song Contest betont. Auf Anfrage von n-tv.de verweist EBU-Sprecher Sietse Bakker auf die Regeln der Veranstaltung. Darin heißt es "Texte, Reden, Gesten politischer oder ähnlicher Natur" sind während des ESC nicht erlaubt. Bakker weist darauf hin, dass diese Regel "alle Arten von Logos ... während der Übertragung der Shows" ausschließe.

Wer diese Regeln bricht, muss mit Disqualifizierung rechnen. Ein Auftritt mit Logo auf Button oder T-Shirt bei einer Pressekonferenz in Baku wäre demnach durchaus möglich, wie Bakker auf Nachfrage bestätigt. Ohnehin sieht Jafarov das Tragen des Menschenrechtslogos nicht als politische Aktion. "Dass wir politische Freiheiten verteidigen, bedeutet nicht, dass wir Politik betreiben." Er betont, dass es beim Eurovision Song Contest doch vor allem darum gehe, "die Freiheit zu propagieren und demokratische Werte zu teilen".

Deutsche PR und deutsches Verständnis

Dem Regime in Baku geht es nur um die Show. Das hat es möglicherweise vom Westen gelernt: Wer die Realität nicht ändern will, braucht wenigstens gute PR. Die Berliner Agentur "Consultum Communications" steht dem aserbaidschanischen Botschafter zur Seite, wenn er Protestbriefe an Bundestagsabgeordnete schreibt. Am 29. September 2011 organisierte die Agentur eine Feier zum 20. Jahrestag der Unabhängigkeit Aserbaidschans - nicht in Baku, sondern in Berlin-Mitte, im Deutschen Historischen Museum. Geladen hatte Mehriban Alijewa, die Frau des Präsidenten, die zu ihren Ämtern auch das der Chefin des aserbaidschanischen ESC-Organisationskomitees zählt.

Unter den Gästen der aserbaidschanischen First Lady waren Bundespräsidentengattin Bettina Wulff, Ex-Außenminister Hans-Dietrich Genscher und Ex-Wirtschaftsminister Michael Glos, die beide im Beiratvon Consultum sitzen. Kritik an ihrem Auftraggeber weist die PR-Agentur zurück. "Politische Gefangene gibt es genau genommen auch in Deutschland", zitiert der "Spiegel" den für Aserbaidschan zuständigen Consultum-Mitarbeiter Michael-Andreas Butz. "Auf eine Art ist Horst Mahler ja auch ein politischer Gefangener." Mahler, ein ehemaliges RAF-Mitglied, der die NPD heute nicht radikal genug findet, sitzt derzeit eine Haftstrafe wegen Volksverhetzung ab.

Mafiöse Strukturen

Die Multifunktionshalle am Platz der Nationalen Flagge entsteht ebenfalls unter deutscher Beteiligung: Die "Baku Crystal Hall" wird von der Alpine Bau Deutschland, der Schweizer Nüssli-Gruppe und den Hamburger Architekten Gerkan, Marg und Partner hochgezogen. Im März soll der Bau fertig sein, die Kosten seien "auf Wunsch des aserbaidschanischen Präsidenten streng geheim", sagte Architekt Markus Pfisterer laut "Tagesspiegel".

Das dürfte mit der Verteilung von Reichtum im Land zu tun haben. Das Bruttoinlandsprodukt pro Kopf liegt bei gut 10.000 Dollar, weltweit ist das Platz 107. "Aserbaidschan hat Erdöl und Gas und dadurch viele Einnahmen", sagt Amnesty-Experte Schröder. "Aber das Geld fließt in dunkle Kanäle und kommt nicht bei der Bevölkerung an. Faktisch gibt es dadurch mafiöse Strukturen." Auch im aktuellen Korruptionsindex von Transparency International schneidet Aserbaidschan nicht ganz so gut ab wie vor einem Jahr beim ESC in Düsseldorf: Platz 143.

Dem Öl- und Gasgeschäft und wohl auch den mafiösen Strukturen verdankt Baku den Wandel von einer sowjetischen Provinzhauptstadt zu einer modernen Metropole mit glitzernden Wolkenkratzern und restaurierten Altbauten. Rücksichtnahme ist dabei weniger wichtig als Großmannssucht: Südwestlich von Baku will der Avesta-Konzern einen 1050 Meter hohen Wolkenkratzer aufstellen. Das wäre neuer Weltrekord. Das Gebäude soll das Zentrum einer neuen Siedlung auf insgesamt 41 künstlichen Inseln sein, in einer Stadt "ohne schädliche Industrie-Abgase, Parkplatzsorgen oder Staus". Von Menschenrechten steht nichts im Prospekt.

Nachtrag 20. Februar: Der im Text zitierte Consultum-Mitarbeiter Michael-Andreas Butz schreibt in einer Mail an n-tv.de, dass sein Zitat aus dem "Spiegel" verkürzt und aus dem Zusammenhang gerissen sei.

http://www.n-tv.de/politik/Pomp-und-PR-in-Baku-article5505216.html

 
Activists Hope Contest Will Improve Human Rights PDF Print E-mail

While the Azerbaijani government hopes to burnish its image by hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in May, civil rights activists are struggling to draw more attention to the country's human rights violations.

Standing uncomfortably in the middle are the organizers of this supposedly "apolitical" event.

 

 

The best view of the arena that will host the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is from the 9th floor of an apartment building at 5 Agil Guliyev Street. On the left is downtown Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, with the renovated old-city walls and glittering new skyscrapers. Next to it is the sweeping horizon of the Caspian Sea. National Flag Square, where a giant Azerbaijani flag flies atop a 162-meter (531-foot) flagpole, is directly in front of the building. The new arena, Baku Crystal Hall, is being built at the end of a peninsula on the other side of the square.

 

Still, there is no one to enjoy the view. It's a stormy day in Baku, nicknamed the "City of the Winds." All the windows have been removed from the walls on the building's 9th floor, and debris is lying everywhere. Small snowdrifts have formed in the corners. Families lived there until recently, but now the entire floor is deserted. A crane is standing next to the building, ready to be put to work. The roof will probably be torn off soon, and then it will rain into the apartments of the people living on the lower floors.

 

When residents walk up the stairs these days, they encounter smirking young people armed with saws and drills. After they leave, residents discover that something has changed. It might be a missing water pipe, a bare power cable hanging in a hallway or a demolished wall. Some residents suddenly find that their gas has been turned off. The residents say the young people work for the city.

 

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,813822,00.html

 
ALL EYES ON BAKU PDF Print E-mail

In May, the 57th Eurovision Song Contest held. Place of the spectacle is the authoritarian Azerbaijan. How to prepare German journalists?

 

Ell and Nikki took 221 points to win. Number one for Azerbaijan. So it was the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) 2011. When it comes to press freedom, country ranked 162nd place in the Reporters without Borders lists, Azerbaijan still behind the Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

To cast off the negative image that the government invests a lot. Allegedly wants to become rich through oil country spend a billion euros for the ESC, this time a guest in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. Azerbaijan as a worthy host - that are designed to represent the media according to the will of the regime.

 

How to prepare German journalists in Baku? Jan Feddersen reported for many years for the Taz newspaper and NDR on the ESC. Of a boycott of the event, as he was sometimes called in politics, nothing keeps Feddersen. "Azerbaijan has always taken very seriously

the participation in the ESC. Why should we deny them the host role - especially those who travel to Baku, are particularly sensitive to respond to human rights problems ". The competition was "always political". "If I have something to criticize in Baku, I will continue to do so."

 

The allegations by Amnesty International and other organizations to weigh heavily Azerbaijan: Journalists and human rights are suppressed. Demonstrations were banned, and homosexuals should also fear reprisals.

 

That the work of foreign journalists could be seriously limited, does not believe the Azerbaijani activist Rasul Jafarov. Jafarov heads the Sing for Democracy Campaign, launched on the occasion of the ESC. For him, the ESC is a rare opportunity to benefit from the attention of the media. "The government is under international scrutiny, they can not afford mistakes," says Jafarov. "That's why we hope that the journalists look closely and report on the abuses in Azerbaijan."

 

High expectations of journalists coming mainly because of the entertainment. Even media blogger Luke Heinser is going to Baku. Already from Oslo and Dusseldorf, he has reported from the ESC. For it is primarily the event - not the place - the history. "The Eurovision Song Contest is always a parallel universe. Dusseldorf for two weeks was not part of Germany, but was among the glittering ESC spaceship. I think it is similar in Baku." Nevertheless, he does not want to ignore criticism. "Human rights were an issue from the beginning. Many ESC fans are gay. The naturally want to know what awaits them there." He'll always have in mind that Azerbaijan is not a free country. "To my blog, they might not always comment."

 

 
Activists seek Eurovision conscience PDF Print E-mail

Norwegian singer Marthe Valle

PHOTO: Kjell Ruben Strøm

 

Norway’s chapter of the Helsinki Committee, known for its advocacy of human rights and democracy, has asked the singers and musicians taking part in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest to pay attention to what’s happening in Azerbaijan, which will host this year’s show. The country, run by a dictator, is regularly accused of human rights violations and crackdowns on freedom of expression.

 

“Everyone who takes part in this arrangement should feel an obligation to study the situation in Azerbaijan,” Berit Lindeman of Den Norske Helsingforskomite told newspaper Dagsavisen last week. “It’s the media’s job to make conditions in the country known, but I also urge the artists to engage themselves, and Norwegian politicians to use the event to demand release of political prisoners.”

 

A local human rights organization in Azerbaijan, called “Sing for Democracy,” also wants to use the annual Eurovision Song Contest to pressure President Ilham Alijev to introduce democratic reforms. If that doesn’t work, the group urges a boycott of the Eurovision finals, scheduled for May 26 in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

 

“Sing for Democracy” is cooperating with several Norwegian organizations in the hopes of drawing attention to human rights abuses in Azerbaijan. At least one Norwegian artist competing to represent Norway at Eurovision, singer Marthe Valle of Harstad, is listening.

 

“Human beings’ right to freedom of expression is something I sure care about, and I in principle oppose voices being silenced,” Valle told Dagsavisen. “It’s especially bad when journalists aren’t allowed to report what’s going on in their own country.”

 

Valle has earlier engaged herself in Palestinian issues and said she’ll “closely follow” how the European Broadcasting Union (EBU)handles issues involving any infringement on freedom of the press or expression during Eurovision.

 

Charlo Halvorsen, head of Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s entertainment division that’s airing Norway’s run-up to Eurovision (called Melodi Grand Prix), said it’s the EBU that needs to take a stand on the human rights situation in its respective member countries, and whether it will have any consequences for Eurovision itself. So far, EBU has chosen not to put any demands on the authorities in Azerbaijan, apart from ensuring total press freedom during the weeks when the contest is held.

 

Human Rights House Foundation in Norway is ensuring that at least Norwegian participants know what they’re getting into in Azerbaijan. The foundation is working with other human rights activists to put together an information packet about the political situation in Azerbaijan with advice to artists, delegations and the press about what they may face, including surveillance and even physical abuse.

 

An estimated 40 percent of the population in Azerbaijan lives in poverty despite the country’s oil wealth. Crown Prince Haakon faced criticism for traveling to Azerbaijan along with a government delegation to attend an international oil conference last year.

 

Elisabeth Eide, deputy leader of Norsk PEN, the local chapter of an international group committed to freedom of expression for writers, said Azerbaijan authorities will surely try to present a glossy picture of their country, something the country’s official website for the event is already doing. Comments published on the site are only positive in nature, and those commenting must “be in line” with the site’s rules. Eide urged NRK to make sure they present the other side of the story. “I expect they will,” Eide said.

 

Meanwhile, three more Norwegian artists were chosen over the weekend to participate in the February 11 final of Norway’s Eurovision preliminary, Melodi Grand Prix: Malin Reitan, Tommy Fredvang and rock band Plumbo. They’ll join Nora Foss Al-Jabri, The Carburetors and Reidun Sæther, who were chosen a week earlier, along with three more to be chosen at the last semi-final in Florø next weekend.

 

Views and News from Norway/ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
Azerbaijan criticized for violating human rights PDF Print E-mail

The campaign, Sing for Democracy is behind the criticism before the final of the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) will be held on 26 May 2012. The campaign, led by Rasul Jafarov, is driven by several organizations engaged in human rights.

 

Challenging the EBU

Members of the campaign demands that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is addressing the problem. They prefer that the EBU requires political prisoners released and condemn human rights violations.

 

Jafarov believe that EBU has made demands for release of journalists in other situations, responding that they have not done the same in Azerbaijan.

- We write a third letter to the EBU now. They say they do not want to politicize the competition, but we are not politicians. We are working for human rights, and as we understand it has Euro vision the same goal, he says.

 

ESC Chief Jon Olav Sand insists that he has received a guarantee from the host country.

- Authorities in Azerbaijan have guaranteed us that security and press freedom for foreign journalists and delegations to be safeguarded, says Sand.

 

Do people homeless

To keep the event, which annually is seen by hundreds of millions, the Baku Crystal Hall was built.

The new, large hall, which is expected to be completed in March, can accommodate up to 23 000 spectators. During the construction process, the peace center in the capital Baku reef, along with a number of homes. Now accused the organizers for not having given compensation to those who have lost their homes.

- Local activists have been imprisoned, and freedom of expression has been curtailed even further. People are being evicted from their homes without compensation, said Jafarov.

 

He finds it hard to believe that EBU do not do something about it.

Jafarov do not understand how the European public and members of the EBU can enjoy the international ESC finals in Azerbaijan, the country has so much trouble to comply with human rights.

 

- How can Europe singing happy songs, while they look into the eyes of those who have been imprisoned under fabricated charges and lost house and home for the finals will be held, he asks.

- Outrageous accusations

Azerbaijan's ambassador to Sweden, Rafael Ibrahimov, says to NRK that he guarantees the security and freedom of speech to foreign journalists.

- Freedom of expression and press freedom is something we protect our country. Not just for this event, but always, he says.

Allegations about the homeless people who have not received compensation, dismisses his smooth and hair-raising calls.

- Anyone who has had their homes demolished has received compensation from the state. It is standard procedure, said Ibrahimov.

The statements to Jafarov and Sing for Democracy worried him a little.

- All communities have people who do not agree with the way things are. The head of Sing for Democracy represents a very small proportion of the population, he says about Jafarov and his campaign.

 

Unreasonable demands



The Norwegian Helsinki Committee supports Sing for Democracy, and monitors Azerbaijan together with other human rights organizations.

- We know with certainty that it violates human rights. We also know that it is illegal evictions from homes with little compensation, says Berit Nising Lindeman, head of information in the Norwegian Helsigforskomiteen to NRK.no.

She said that the committee has stated several times that there Ibrahimov says is nonsense.

- It made ​​unreasonable demands on journalists seeking visas. It's going to be a greater freedom of expression that week event takes place, but it is the time before and after that is the problem, she says.

Lindeman believes that journalists covering the ESC should have freedom they need. The ability to travel to Azerbaijan before and after the event, and among other things, write about the country, must be present. Not so today.

 

- They will simply not that you should write something about their country, says Lindeman.

NHC will have training for journalists and editors to be of Baku, in how to deal with visa application and press freedom.

Original version - http://www.nrk.no/kultur-og-underholdning/1.7949549

 
SWEDISH TV CHANNEL TOUCHED UPON HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES ON ITS REPORTAGE REGARDING “EUROVISION-2012” PDF Print E-mail

Sweden’s SVT Kobra Tv channel prepared a reportage on Eurovision -2012 that will be held next year in Azerbaijan. 30 minutes film covered positions regarding preparation for the Song Contest in Azerbaijan, including information about the venue and other issues about the Song Contest.

 

At the same time, the reportage contains positions about human rights issues in Azerbaijan, specifically, Objective TV’s activities,  Sing For Democracy Cmapaign launched by human rights organizations, and  property issues.

The reportage is in sweeden language. Speeches in English is being presented in the English language. To watch the film, you can visit the following link:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Dct1Sy6A-Y&feature=player_embedded