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Azerbaijani Public TV Head Says Eurovision Issue Closed

Azerbaijani Rovshan Nasirli, who voted for an Armenian singer in Eurovision 2009
BAKU -- The head of Azerbaijani state television company Ictimai says the TV station has answered all questions regarding the Eurovision scandal and the issue is closed, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

Ictimai Director-General Ismayil Omerov told RFE/RL he doesn't understand "who is interested in exaggerating the [Eurovision] issue now." He says Ictimai replied to all of the questions it was asked by the Eurovision's ruling council, the Reference Group, and that Ictimai agrees with the decision made on September 17 by Eurovision not to sanction Azerbaijan.

Eurovision had investigated reports that some Azerbaijani citizens who had voted for the Armenian song in the Eurovision Song Contest held in Moscow in May were called to the Security Ministry to explain their vote. The Reference Group met in Oslo on September 10 and along with the Azerbaijani issue also discussed a possible rule violation by Spain during the contest.

Ictimai avoided being penalized by the European Broadcasting Union, the organizer of the Eurovision contest, concerning the Azerbaijan telecommunications company's turning over phone numbers of those people who voted by mobile phone for the Armenian song to the government.

Although Eurovision did not sanction Azerbaijan, it did change its rules so that the national broadcaster will now be responsible for the actions of the telecom company in the event that such phone records are reported to the government.

The change is seen as ensuring the privacy of the millions of people taking part in the Eurovision voting.

In one example of the harassment, Rovshan Nasirli, a 25-year-old Azerbaijani, was called to the Security Ministry on August 12 to explain why he voted for the Armenian song in the contest. The officials told Nasirli that his vote for Armenia -- Azerbaijan's long-standing rival -- was a matter of national security and requested a written explanation before releasing him. He told RFE/RL that ministry officials had a list of other people who had voted for the Armenian song.