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International Media Accused of Being in 'Propaganda Mode'

Azerbaijan -- detained journalists in Baku - 02Aug2013

Azerbaijan -- detained journalists in Baku - 02Aug2013

The head of the media arm of Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission, Azer Tagiyev, expressed concern today over what he called the "propaganda mode" of presidential campaign coverage by RFE/RL, Voice of America, and the BBC, accusing the outlets of trying to influence voters in violation of Azerbaijani legislation on elections.

The remarks followed a complaint issued by the country's ruling Yeni Azerbaijan party to the Commission this morning accusing RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service, known locally as Radio Azadliq, of violating the country's election law by "campaigning" for elections.

RFE/RL posted a response to the party's accusations on Radio Azadliq's website, calling them "absurd" and in contradiction to international law. It characterized them as "classic scare tactics that the ruling party is using to try to intimidate the independent press and to control coverage of the elections.'

RFE/RL said it's coverage was "balanced, fair and professional" and in accordance with international standards.

The party's complaint reflects an ambiguity in Azerbaijan's election code, which fails to distinguish between media "coverage" of elections and media "campaigning" in elections, the latter of which is banned.

A mid-term report on the elections issued by the OSCE on September 12 refers to this omission, observing that the electoral code "makes no provisions for balanced coverage of candidates and political parties in news and current affairs programs."

It also expresses concern about the pre-election media environment, stating that it is "overshadowed by a number of imprisoned journalists (currently eight), the intensification of the practice of unjustified or selective criminal prosecution and reported physical attacks against journalists."

RFE/RL has passed the ruling party's accusations to the OSCE Observation Mission in Baku, which is tasked with assessing the October 9 presidential polls.