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Is Azerbaijani TV Censoring Eurovision Contestants?

Loreen of Sweden speaks at a press conference after the second semifinal of the Eurovision 2012 Song Contest in Baku.
Loreen of Sweden speaks at a press conference after the second semifinal of the Eurovision 2012 Song Contest in Baku.
Following the second semifinal of the Eurovision Song Contest on May 24 in Baku, Swedish finals contestant Loreen was asked by a Reuters journalist about her meeting with Azerbaijan's political opposition.

She answered simply: "What I can say, there is two parts of me. One that is private and one that is my work that I'm doing here, and just today I want to keep the focus on this energy that we created right now."

But Azerbaijani Public TV, which is broadcasting Eurovision, immediately had its moderator jump in to keep any more questions "relevant," prompting howls of protest from the journalists in the room. What's more, its voiced-over translation of the reporter's question into Azeri on its domestic broadcast came through as only "How did you feel on stage?"

Loreen, tipped as a favorite to win the final along with Russia's Buranovskie Babushki, met with opposition activists on May 23 to discuss the human rights situation in Azerbaijan.

According to the Azerbaijan Press Agency, her meetings with the group and with opposition party leaders Isa Qambar and Ali Kerimli were all set up by Swedish Ambassador Mikael Eriksson. The agency also reported that Eriksson asked Loreen to bring up politics at the song contest.

This led Ali Hasanov, who heads President Ilham Aliyev's political department, to complain to the European Broadcast Union, which organizes the Eurovision Song Contest, that it should prevent contestants meeting with "anti-Azerbaijani" groups.

"The European Broadcasting Union must intervene in this issue and stop these politicized actions," Hasanov told the Trend news agency.

Sweden's Foreign Ministry has denied that Eriksson told Loreen to make any such statements.

"There is no substance to the rumor that the ambassador has asked Loreen to make any political statements," a spokesman told Sweden's "Expressen."

So if Loreen in fact wins on May 26, will Azerbaijani TV broadcast her press conference? Or will Russia's grannies save them the trouble?

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