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Sweden's Loreen, the winner of the 2012 Eurovision song Contest
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has denied press reports that it might exclude countries with poor human rights records from hosting future Eurovision contests.

Spokesperson Karen Mazzoli told journalists that reports that the EBU -- which organizes the Eurovision song contest -- will discuss a proposal in June to choose host countries according to their human rights record are not correct.

"The stories that are out in the press at the moment about the EBU excluding members from the European song contest are not true," she said, adding that the only thing being discussed in the entity right now, which will be formalized at a Strasbourg general assembly in May, "relates to values of public service broadcasters."

She said the Geneva-based EBU is preparing a proposal to stress shared values for public service broadcasters. But the proposal includes "no word of excluding people from hosting the song contest."

"The [sponsors] also felt that it was important to search for the values that we share and unite us while recognizing the diversity within our culturally rich Europe," she said. "Therefore we are putting together a declaration on core values of public service media. But for the moment this has no consequences for members who currently don't live up to those values."

The EBU's members include 56 countries and 74 public broadcasters.

Nordic media had reported that the proposal contains rules requiring competing countries to be democratic. The reports appeared after Sweden's entry won this year's Eurovision contest in Baku, securing the Scandinavian country's right to host the competition next year.

Human rights groups criticized Azerbaijan's hosting of this year's Eurovision, accusing Baku of alleged abuses, including restrictions of free speech and the use of torture in prisons.
Hopeful of change?
DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan's lower chamber of parliament has passed a draft law decriminalizing libel.

The proposed legislation, proposed in March by President Emomali Rahmon, removes libel and insult from the Criminal Code and places it under the bailiwick of administrative law.

That means journalists accused of libel would face an administrative court rather than criminal prosecution. Administrative courts could issue fines for a libel conviction but not a prison sentence.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) welcomed the decision. The OSCE's representative on freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, expressed hope that all remaining criminal provisions related to defamation would eventually be abolished.

The draft law must be approved by the upper chamber of parliament and signed by the president.

Under the existing legal code, Tajik journalists face the possibility of several years in jail for a libel conviction.

The new draft legislation would not alter a criminal law calling for up to five years in prison for those who libel or insult the president.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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