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Eurovision Amends Rules, Does Not Sanction Azerbaijan

Armenian Eurovision entrants Anush and Inga Arshakian perform at the Russian party held in Moscow's Euro-House in mid-May.
OSLO -- Organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest have decided to change its rules but will not sanction Azerbaijan for officially harassing citizens who voted for arch rival Armenia in the May contest, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the song contest, was considering fining Azerbaijan or banning it from the contest for up to three years for violating contest rules.

The EBU said in a September 17 statement that its ruling body, the Reference Group, acknowledges that some Azerbaijanis who voted for the Armenian entry were called to the National Security Ministry.

The union also decried the breach in privacy of Azerbaijanis who voted via mobile phone for the Armenian song and were reported to the government.

EBU Director-General Jean Reveillon said violating the privacy of voters "or interrogation of totally unacceptable."

The EBU says the Reference Group decided at a meeting in Oslo on September 11 to amend Eurovision Song Contest rules so that the country's participating broadcaster is liable "for any disclosure of information which could be used to identify voters."

The union said the rule change is aimed at ensuring that the privacy of Eurovision contest voters is protected. It added that its previous rules put the obligation for protection of voters' privacy on the respective telecommunications companies.

The EBU said it does not have the ability to penalize the telecom companies but can now, in future contests, impose sanctions against the broadcaster.

The Reference Group is made up of delegates from Norway, Russia, and Serbia -- the last three winners of the Eurovision contest -- along with Spain, Holland, Ireland, and two members from Sweden.

In one example of the harassment, Rovshan Nasirli, a 25-year-old Azerbaijani, was called to the country's National Security Ministry on August 12 to explain why he voted for an Armenian song in the contest broadcast from Moscow in May.

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.