October 26, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Azerbaijani media advocates have condemned a government decision to bar a local broadcaster from airing programs of the BBC, Voice of America, and RFE/RL starting next year, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported.
The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Security has issued a statement saying the decision to ban foreign broadcasts on the national independent television and radio channel ANS was another effort by Azerbaijani authorities to "silence independent and nongovernment electronic media."
Ali Kerimli, the head of the leading opposition Popular Front, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service the decision reflected authorities' attempts to "restore Soviet-style authoritarianism."
"Foreign radio programs are threatened to be shut down in Azerbaijan," Kerimli said. "The Azeri government clearly objects to broadcasts of Voice of America, Radio Liberty, and the BBC in Azerbaijan. The Azeri government de facto follows the Soviet government's policy of the 1970."
Nushiravan Maharramli, the head of the National Broadcasting Council, told the Associated Press that local broadcasters "lack proper licenses" allowing them to air programs of foreign radio stations.
He said the BBC and RFE/RL would be able to continue using their own frequencies and that Azeri authorities were ready to discuss providing a frequency to VOA, which does not have one.