The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission
) has sent a letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, expressing its concern over the impending termination of radio broadcasts by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA) on local frequencies.
As the letter notes, Nusiravan Maharramli, the head of the Azerbaijan National TV and Radio Council, has justified this step by pointing to a 2002 law that restricts such frequencies to Azerbaijani broadcasters.
"Azerbaijan's many daily listeners rely on these programs for up-to-date, objective information," the Helsinki letter states. "Moreover, as Azerbaijan moves increasingly toward integration with the West, RFE/RL and VOA supply a model of media professionalism, as well as the sort of impartial and innovative programming Azerbaijan's citizens need to remain informed, engaged and competitive.
"Instead of closing down FM broadcasts of RFE/RL and VOA," the letter continues, "we would like to see Azerbaijan developing a more diverse, pluralistic media environment."
It says ending the broadcasts would also send the wrong signal if Azerbaijan has a desire to strengthen U.S.-Azerbaijani relations with President-elect Barack Obama.
The letter was signed by the chairman of the Helsinki Commission, U.S. Representative Alcee L. Hastings of Florida, co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, and ranking minority member Representative Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey.