(PRAGUE, Czech Republic)
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) President Jeffrey Gedmin called today's decision by the government of Azerbaijan to take foreign broadcasters off the air
"a sad day for the Azeri people, who will now find themselves without access to free and independent media." The OSCE calls the move a "serious step backwards"
for Azerbaijan and the US State Department says the decision "retards democratic reform in Azerbaijan."
In Baku today, the Azeri National TV-Radio Council formally ruled to ban all international broadcasters, including RFE/RL, VOA, and BBC, from the airwaves effective January 1. The move essentially guarantees a monopoly for state-controlled media and prevents any independent news broadcasts from reaching the Azeri people.
Gedmin rejected Azerbaijan's suggestion that RFE/RL can broadcast effectively on alternatives to FM frequencies such as Internet radio or shortwave. "Losing our FM frequency means losing 90% of our audience," he said. "Nevertheless, we will find ways to reach our listeners. Our mission of bringing uncensored news and information to the Azeri people is now more important than ever."
Since the announcement two months ago that authorities were considering this move, Azeri advocates of press freedom have joined the US, EU, OSCE, and international media watchdog groups in condemnation of the regime's efforts at stopping the free exchange of information in Azerbaijan.About RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service
For more than 50 years, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Radio Azadliq has operated within a challenging media environment as a dependable source of professional, independent, and up-to-the minute information and news. Broadcasting for 10 hours each day on 101.7 FM, Radio Azadliq puts the values of democracy and independence firmly at the center of its mission, and is the country's most popular international broadcaster.