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Free Azerbaijan - The story behind Eurovision

28th May 2012

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Journalists silenced.To continue the Eurovision tradition, this year’s Song Contest was hosted by Azerbaijan. Sadly, beyond the flash lights and glorious buildings, this country hides a history of violence and persecution, a story of the punishment of the ones who fight for their right to free speech.

While some of Azerbaijan’s journalists are left unconscious by private security guards before the passive eyes of the police, others abducted and tortured to the point leading to their death, the guilty ones triumphantly escape the law of justice.

No arrests or prosecutions have been made within the past seven years in Azerbaijan to account for this violence against journalists. It seems to be spreading. It is not only the rights of the journalists that is at stake here, but the rights of all public speakers ever standing up for their truths: musicians, gay rights campaigners, political activists.

Disguised as an celebration of artistic freedom, the Eurovision Song Contest is now used as a political device, aimed to turn away the looks of those who ever doubted the responsible attitude of the Azerbaijan government in defending its people.

An international event, this year’s Eurovision show was Azerbaijan’s long-awaited chance to draw attention to the challenges it faces in the sphere of human rights.

The cultural event is of great public as well as political importance to its society, asking, as a member of the European family, the right to its democratic values.

Although already a member of the OSCE and the Council of Europe, with recent elections marred by legal violations, Azerbaijan is still striving to become actively integrated in the European community, lobbying for freedom of expression and the implementation of specific democratic reforms.

Azerbaijan holds a shocking human rights record, including people held as political prisoners under fabricated charges, questioning the country’s place in the context of Europe’s democratic system.

This year’s contest could have provided an international platform for seeking solutions and raising awareness, winning Europe’s countries as partners in fighting to eliminate political persecution and campaigning for democratic reforms, including issues such as broadcasting transparency, media and political freedom, property rights and visa liberalization.

This is the closest Azerbaijan has come to its goals. Give Eurovision a deeper meaning, give the people of Azerbaijan Europe’s Vision of a democratic future. Free Azerbaijan.

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