Azerbaijan Bans RFE/RL, Other Foreign Radio From Airwaves
The ban, which is due to come into effect on January 1, will terminate radio broadcasts by the BBC, Voice of America, and RFE/RL's Azeri-language service, Radio Azadliq.
The council first announced the proposal in late October, but this ruling finalizes the decision.
The council has argued that national FM and medium-wave radio frequencies are the property of the government, and as such cannot be used by international broadcasters. Council Chairman Nushiravan Maharramli defended the move, saying it is meant to bring broadcasting norms in line with current legislation, and is "in no way connected to politics."
The decision is seen as cutting off one of the last remaining sources of independent news and information in Azerbaijan.
"We are known there as a source of independent, credible, accurate news and information," Gedmin said. "This decision to knock us off the air and, by the way, others -- the Voice of America, the BBC -- is going to rob the people in this country of important information that they need to react and act on as they're leading their lives and trying to grow and build civil society."
The U.S. State Department said the decision, if enacted, "will represent a serious setback to freedom of speech, and retard democratic reform in Azerbaijan."
Crumbling Press Freedom
Although the banned broadcasters will still have access to satellite, cable, and Internet platforms in Azerbaijan, the ban on radio transmissions is expected to eliminate the vast majority of the stations' current audience.
RFE/RL's Azeri-language Radio Azadliq, for example, is expected to lose approximately 95 percent of its audience due to the ban, despite continued shortwave, online, and satellite broadcasts.
The BBC, which broadcasts in Azerbaijan in Azeri, Russian, Turkish, and English, says it will continue shortwave and online broadcasts. But BBC spokesman Mike Gardner said the decision will deprive hundreds of thousands of listeners of BBC radio broadcasts.
"We will be contacting the Azerbaijan government about the status of a contract which we've recently signed, only two months ago, to build additional FM relays to improve the audibility of our services in Aqsu, Dashkasan, and Lerik," Gardner said. "But overall, we do regret this decision and we'll be making attempts to see if we can do something about it, to make sure we can get services back on for our listeners."
Television and radio remain the primary source of information in Azerbaijan, where access to print media and the Internet is limited. There are no independent local broadcasters in Azerbaijan.
Media-watchers say the move is further evidence of crumbling press freedom in the oil-rich Caspian Sea country.
"It is especially regrettable, given that in Azerbaijan we have seen a deterioration in the security of journalists due to harassment," Haraszti said. "Many so-called criminal cases have been orchestrated by the prosecutors against independent-minded print media and their editors and journalists. Many of them are even in prison."
"With this decision," Haraszti continued, "the monopolization by government-friendly voices of the airwaves of the broadcast media is practically almost complete, and that's a very regrettable start to the eve of the next year."
Foreign radio broadcasts first came under threat in 2006 when Azerbaijani authorities ruled that national law prohibited local radio stations from retransmitting programs from the BBC, VOA, and RFE/RL.
Critics say Baku's selective interpretation of existing media law violates its commitments as a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Elsa Vidal of Reporters Without Borders -- which gave Azerbaijan an abysmal ranking of 150 out of 173 countries in its annual press-freedom index -- says her organization and others will petition officials in Baku to reevaluate the decision. Without open access to foreign broadcasts, she says Azerbaijan will return to the days of Soviet-style media control, when people were forced to resort to scratchy, shortwave foreign radio broadcasts to get news about their own country.
"There is obviously no need to ban any foreign radio, except to enhance and improve the control that the president and his staff already have on information in Azerbaijan. It's sad," Vidal says. "We are, of course, concerned with the loss for the Azerbaijani people, who have difficulty accessing objective, neutral, and factual information, especially concerning their political life."
The broadcasting ban comes as Azerbaijani lawmakers have scheduled a public referendum in March on scrapping presidential term limits.
The current president, Ilham Aliyev, succeeded his father Heydar Aliyev in 2003, and was elected to a second five-year term in October 2008. The referendum, if passed, will allow Aliyev to remain in office for an indefinite term.
Critics like Ilqar Mammadov, a Baku-based political analyst and blogger, say the broadcasting ban means Azeris will hear few opposing points of view in the critical weeks before the referendum -- and that the West should be more skeptical in its assessment of Aliyev's rule.
"Many international democratic institutions support him and his presidency because of political pressure associated with Western energy, oil, and strategic security issues," Mammadov says. "The international community should reconsider seriously its attitude to this cruel dictatorship that does not recognize human rights in the country, violates its international obligations, and is transforming the Azerbaijan republic into a monarchy run by one family."
RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service contributed to this report
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Ukrainian repair crews continued to scramble to return power to millions of homes on November 25 following devastating Russian missile attacks this week on infrastructure facilities including water and heating sources, while Kyiv said near-constant Russian bombing was affecting a handful of population centers in the east.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address that more than 6 million households remain in darkness.
"As of this evening, blackouts continue in most regions and in Kyiv," he said.
But he said work crews had succeeded in cutting the number of affected locations "by half" since November 23, one of the most destructive nights of Russian bombing of power infrastructure in the nine-month-old invasion.
In addition to the capital, Zelenskiy said Odesa on the Black Sea, Lviv in western Ukraine, west-central Vinnytsia, and Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine are some of the hardest-hit areas.
The national power-grid company, Ukrenerho, said via Telegram on November 25 that by 7 p.m. around 30 percent of the country's electricity supplies were still out.
It said a "phased restoration" was continuing and repair teams "are working around the clock" but urged people to consume energy "sparingly."
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal credited energy workers and said, "No country in the world has such experience in putting the energy system into operation after seven waves of missile strikes."
Zelenskiy also visited a multistory residential building reportedly damaged by a Russian missile in the town of Vyshhorod, north of the capital, along with one of the emergency hubs Ukraine has been setting up around the country to provide device charging, heat, water, Internet, and electricity.
In his video statement he assured Ukrainians that "we will overcome all challenges and we will definitely win."
The Ukrainian Army General Staff said on November 25 that said active battles were raging in the regions of Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhya.
Russian forces are carrying out nonstop shelling in the Kryvyi and Kherson regions, it said, including in the city of Kherson.
The Ukrainian military said its forces had carried out attacks on a Russian command post and a half-dozen other targets including three enemy anti-aircraft missile stations.
RFE/RL cannot independently verify battlefield claims in areas of intense fighting.
The Ukrainian General Staff also accused Russian troops of dangerous actions at Europe's largest nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhya, which it has occupied since early in the invasion.
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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Ukrainian officials have complained of catastrophic risk as exhausted Ukrainian workers at Zaporizhzhya work under extreme duress.
The head of the UN's nuclear agency said this week that all of Ukraine's civilian nuclear power plants are due for inspections and that IAEA experts will visit all those facilities, including the abandoned Chernobyl power plant.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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Other new additions under the increasingly applied law on November 25 included a trans-initiative group, a charitable foundation, and a journalist who collaborates with RFE/RL.
A Russian court released Roizman from detention in August but ordered him not to communicate with anyone without permission, as it imposed pre-trial restrictions a day after police arrested the outspoken Kremlin critic and prosecutors accused him of "discrediting the armed forces."
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There was no official confirmation.
The website said Novak was invited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has repeatedly expressed exasperation at the response to the war by NATO- and EU-member Hungary's leadership and especially its entrenched Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The outlet did not say when Novak was traveling but said she would be making the trip to neighboring Ukraine by train.
Budapest has publicly refused to join fellow NATO states in supplying weapons directly to Ukraine and has staunchly resisted Brussels' pressure to cut off its imports of Russian gas, although it has acknowledged Russian responsibility for the conflict.
Novak is a steadfast Orban ally and former lawmaker and minister of family affairs who took over as president in May.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said amid quarrels over a possible EU price cap on Russian oil on November 24 that Budapest had negotiated itself an exemption within the EU's current proposal, meaning such a cap among other members would not affect Hungary if it were adopted.
Orban, who has ruled for 12 years and won a new four-year term in April, and his ruling Fidesz government have attacked Western sanctions as akin to the EU "shooting itself in the lung."
He and Szijjarto are almost alone among senior Western officials in having made official trips to Russia since President Vladimir Putin launched the all-out invasion of Ukraine in February.
Under Orban, Hungary has spurned Western warnings to court Moscow in energy and diplomatic areas as Budapest increasingly challenges EU policy including on free media, democracy, LGBT rights, immigration, and rule of law.
Novak has joined other Hungarian officials including Orban in keeping the fate of Transcarpathian Hungarians high on her list of priorities in relations with Kyiv.
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Yulia Tsvetkova, 29, was found not guilty in mid-July before prosecutors under pressure from anti-LGBT activists appealed the ruling.
That appeal was rejected by an appeals court in the Siberian city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur on November 22, according to Tsvetkova's mother, who lives in France.
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She said that two new criminal cases have been opened against her daughter, so "it's impossible [for her] to stay in Russia."
Tsvetkova draws women's bodies and is widely known for her advocacy of LGBT issues.
Tsvetkova's administration of a social-media page dubbed "The Vagina Monologues" and with drawings and other images that resembled female genitalia had attracted the ire of authorities.
She was charged with producing and distributing pornographic material and prosecutors said at the time that they sought a 38-month prison sentence in the case.
Tsvetkova's trial began in April 2021 after a nearly 1 1/2-year investigation during which she was fined for spreading LGBT "propaganda" and put under house arrest.
The trial was held behind closed doors because prosecutors said they needed to show the images as evidence.
In June, the Justice Ministry added Tsvetkova to its list of "foreign agents."
Amnesty International has said the case against Tsvetkova amounts to political repression and "Kafkaesque absurdity."
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The governor of the embattled Kherson region of southeastern Ukraine said on November 25 that "due to constant shelling" officials have evacuated hospital patients from several facilities, while another official there blamed dozens of deaths on Russian shelling the same day.
Halyna Luhova, head of the Kherson city military administration, said 15 Kherson city residents had been killed by Russian shelling during the day and 35 more injured, including a child.
Luhova said via social media that multiple private homes and high-rise buildings had been damaged in the Russian bombing.
Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said via the regional administration's Telegram channel earlier in the day that children from a Kherson regional facility had been transported to Mykolayiv, about 60 kilometers away.
He said other transferees included psychiatric patients, with around 100 people expected to get treatment in the Black Sea port city farther west, Odesa.
He said some of the transfers would last "as long as enemy strikes are being repeated in Kherson."
IN PHOTOS: As Russian forces continue to shell the recently liberated city of Kherson, doctors have been struggling to work with little water, electricity, and poor equipment.
Yanusevich also said residents in the city -- which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces earlier this month after months of occupation and has been targeted by long-range aerial attacks on infrastructure and civilian targets -- could contact authorities to request evacuation "to safer regions of Ukraine."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this week cited constant reports of shelling of Kherson, the only regional hub that Russian forces had managed to overrun since the start of the nine-month full-scale invasion.
Much of the country remains without power, water, and fuel following massive bombardments by Russian missile attacks in recent weeks.
Yanusevich also notified residents on November 25 that two mobile-phone operators, Kyivstar and Vodafone, had managed to restore the functioning of two base stations in the Kherson region, allowing for voice and Internet services.
With reporting by AFP
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EU Delays Talks On Russian Oil Price Cap Until Next Week
A meeting of EU government representatives scheduled for late on November 25 to discuss a Group of Seven (G7) proposal to cap Russian seaborne oil prices was canceled, EU diplomats said. "There was not enough of a convergence of views," one diplomat said. A day earlier, EU governments were split on the level at which to cap Russian oil prices to curb Moscow's ability to pay for its war in Ukraine without causing a global oil supply shock. The cap is to enter into force on December 5. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Belarusian Nobel Peace Laureate Byalyatski's Wife To Accept Award For Him
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Rights Groups Say Iran Forcing Families To Bury Dead At Night
Human rights groups say Iranian authorities have forced the family of one of the victims killed by security forces during protests in the Kurdish city of Mahabad to bury their son's body in the middle of the night under strict security measures.
The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network claimed in a report on November 25 that forces from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) targeted 32-year-old Shamal Khediri with direct fire last week during the bloody suppression of protests in the northwestern Iranian city of Mahabad. He died after being transferred to hospital on November 24.
The Norway-based Hengaw rights group said that after handing over Khediri's body to his family, several security forces escorted them to Mahabad and forced them to bury his body "in the middle of the night."
Activists say the increasingly violent suppression of protesters in western Iran is an attempt by authorities to create fear among protesters and quell the nationwide protests that have rocked the country since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died on September 16 while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.
They added that forcing families to bury those killed by security forces is an attempt to cover up the incidents and limit the chances of funerals turning into massive demonstrations.
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network and Hengaw, two groups that monitor the human rights situation in Kurdistan Province, reported on November 25 that Heman Aman, a man from the Iranian-Kurdish city of Bukan, was tortured to death after being shot and kidnapped by government forces.
According to the reports, the 26-year-old Aman died on November 23 "as a result of severe torture by agents of the Urmia Intelligence Department" at a detention center.
The report added that Aman's body was also buried at the middle of the night under the pressure of security forces after being handed over to his family.
The IRGC has accused Kurdish groups of "attacking and infiltrating Iran to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest" amid protests that erupted over Amini's death.
Anger over Amini's death has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights. The widespread demonstrations represent the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.
The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 23, at least 445 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 61 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Germany In Talks With Allies Over Polish Push For Patriot Delivery To Ukraine
Germany said on November 25 it was discussing with allies Poland's demand that German Patriot air-defense units be sent to Ukraine, after NATO's chief suggested the military alliance might not oppose such a move. Berlin offered Warsaw the Patriot system to help secure its airspace after a stray missile crashed and killed two people in Poland last week. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak later asked Germany to send the fire units to Ukraine instead. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.
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