Amnesty International (AI) today launched a campaign
calling for Eurovision, the international music competition slated for Baku in May, “to leave a free expression legacy in Azerbaijan.”
The campaign seeks to mobilize Twitter and Facebook users to pressure the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes Eurovision
, “to do more to ensure the authorities in Azerbaijan respect human rights,” a statement from AI says.
“The Eurovision Song Contest celebrates free expression, and the organizers claim to champion media freedom. Yet Azerbaijan has one of the worst environments for media and free expression in Europe. Ordinary Azeris struggling to speak freely have been living in an atmosphere of fear for the past twenty years,” said Max Tucker, AI's campaigner for the South Caucasus.
Last month, a free-lancer for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani service was subject to a smear campaign
that she believes was in retaliation for her investigative reports into corruption inside Azerbaijan’s ruling family. The government pledged to investigate the incident, although no suspects have been apprehended yet.
AI says that its Eurovision campaign comes one year after Azeri authorities suppressed a peaceful anti-government protest, detaining about 150 activists
, 14 of whom remain behind bars.
Azerbaijan has also jailed social media activists including, most famously, the "donkey bloggers
" in 2009, and Bakhtiyar Hajiyev,
who has been in prison since March last year after he used Facebook to help organize the protests.
Former Eurovision contestants from Denmark, Finland, Holland, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom have signed on to the AI campaign, as have artists from Bulgaria, Germany, and Azerbaijan itself.