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Gedmin on Azerbaijan, Free Media and RFE/RL in IHT

The International Herald Tribune published a letter to the editor by RFE/RL president Jeffrey Gedmin

International Herald Tribune

Stanley Weiss's "The key to the Caucasus" (Views, Dec. 9) extols Azerbaijan's strategic significance. Indeed, oil-rich Azerbaijan is nestled between Russia and Iran and deserves considerable attention from Washington policymakers.

It's also true that while President Ilham Aliyev's government has been wooing the United States, it has also been systematically moving to silence free media. These moves - affecting the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America and Azerbaijan's indigenous media - have been criticized by the U.S. State Department, members of Congress, the European Union and media watchdog groups.

If the Azeri government succeeds in suffocating independent media, the "new generation of export routes" Weiss envisions will emerge in a society that lacks the rule of law and basic accountability. That's bad for business, bad for American interests and bad for the people of Azerbaijan.

Jeffrey Gedmin, Prague President, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty