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Azerbaijan: Students Protest Over Shut Down Of RFE/RL Service

By Mirza Michaeli

Prague, 30 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A group of Azerbaijani students today staged a protest in front of the Azerbaijan consulate in Istanbul to protest the shut down of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani-language, mediumwave broadcasts in Azerbaijan.

About 15 student protesters carried banners, reading: "Liberty to Liberty," and submitted a written statement to the Consulate, demanding immediate restoration of the broadcasts in Azerbaijan.

The statement accused Azerbaijan's authorities of depriving people in Azerbaijan of the right to listen to the Azerbaijani-language broadcasts, in order to obtain objective, uncensored news and feature reports. The statement also asserts that the decision to shut down the broadcasts was political.

The Democratic Congress, a group comprised of more than ten opposition political parties in Azerbaijan, yesterday met in Baku to discuss the issue. Opposition leaders at the meeting demanded authorities restore the broadcasts, and said they planned more rallies to support the demand. Broadcast service supporters, grouped as the Radio Liberty Defense Committee, plan to meet today in Baku to discuss further steps to press for the restoration of the broadcasts.

The Communications Ministry shut down mediumwave service more than a week ago, claiming the broadcast service did not have proper documents. Shortwave broadcasts have continued.

Azerbaijan's Information Ministry this week had said President Heydar Aliyev has ordered the Ministries of Communication and Information to restore the broadcasts as soon as possible. But, the Communications Ministry yesterday said it had not changed its decision to halt the broadcasts.