BAKU -- With preparations in full swing in Azerbaijan ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest, a group of independent Azerbaijani journalists has unveiled a new website intended to provide full, uncensored coverage of the run-up.
The glitzy international song contest is scheduled to be held in May in Baku.
Eurovision.ann.az was launched on February 22 as an alternative to Azerbaijan's official Eurovision website, eurovision.az, which has carefully glossed over the various controversies that have marred preparations for the event.
So far, the new website, which is available in Azeri, Russian, and English, carries mostly innocuous news about the show's contestants.
One of its leading stories is devoted to the breakup of the Croatian girl band Feminnem. The site also informs readers that televoting for Spain's future Eurovision song has begun and posts a video of a party attended last weekend in Baku by Azerbaijan's contestant, Sabina Babayeva.
A computer simulation of Baku Crystal Hall, where the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest will be held.
The only news item touching on negative aspects associated with the event is a report on the much-criticized demolition of buildings in central Baku, victims of the authorities' grandiose Eurovision plans.
But this is just a start, according to one of the new website's editors, Naila Baghirova, and the new site will "post news according to international standards, all sides of issues will be represented."
'Lift The Glitzy Curtains'
"If you look at our website you will find information about the demolitions," she adds. "This website is not only about music; the social and political aspects of news will also be published. That's why we consider it like an independent online version."
Human Rights Watch last week slammed Azerbaijan for what it described as the forced evictions of hundreds of Baku residents
"The event is overshadowed by the illegal evictions, expropriations, and demolitions for hundreds of local residents forced out of their homes," the organization said in a statement.
Both international and local rights groups hope the famous contest will help highlight the rampant abuse of human rights in Azerbaijan.
On February 20, Amnesty International said this year's contest should "lift the glitzy curtains" and expose the corruption, torture, ill-treatment, and unfair trials of dissidents in Azerbaijan.
According to human rights groups, 16 demonstrators arrested during antigovernment protests in spring last year are still jailed in the oil-rich country, as well as four journalists critical of the authorities.
RFE/RL's Claire Bigg contributed to this article