US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar expressed the U.S government’s concern about satellite broadcasting interruptions that have effectively jammed RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service broadcasts into the country since late April.
Amb. Morningstar made the statement during a July 15 meeting at RFE/RL’s Baku bureau with RFE/RL Acting President and CEO Kevin Klose. Klose was in Baku to meet with the staff of Radio Azadliq, as the Service is known locally, and with Azerbaijani political party leaders including the chairmen of the People’s Front of Azerbaijan Party, Ali Karimli and of the Musavat Party, Isa Qambar. Azeri officials did not respond to RFE/RL requests for meetings.
Calling RFE/RL “an important contributor to the Azerbaijani media landscape,” Amb. Morningstar said he has asked Azerbaijani government officials for “their assistance in resolving this issue,” noting that, “during this election year, it is particularly important for the Azerbaijani government to help guarantee the free flow of information to its people.”
The Ambassador’s message was reiterated in remarks made by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas O. Melia during a briefing on Azerbaijan convened yesterday at the Capitol by the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Concerns about interference with Azerbaijani broadcasts were also raised by CSCE Senior State Department Advisor Paul Carter and National Endowment for Democracy Director for Russia and Eurasia Maria Lanskoy.
RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani language service was banned from local FM airwaves by Azeri authorities in 2009, a restriction that prompted the search for broadcast alternatives, including on satellite. Since then, the service’s journalists have been the targets of defamation campaigns; abductions and death threats; arbitrary detentions; physical attacks and attempts to intimidate family members, none of which Azeri authorities have investigated.
July 15, 2013
Good morning everyone. It is a pleasure to be here at Azadlig Radiosu again. It is also a pleasure to be here with RFE/RL Acting President Kevin Klose.
Prior to our visit here, Kevin and I met at the embassy to discuss Radio Liberty’s good work here in Azerbaijan, and also to discuss a recent issue affecting RFE/RL and other Azerbaijani language media outlets: they have recently encountered difficulties broadcasting some of their satellite programming into Azerbaijan. As I have said before, RFE/RL is an important contributor to the Azerbaijani media landscape. Its reporting provides a much-needed model of objective and independent journalism in Azerbaijan.
The U.S. government is concerned and has been in touch with RFE/RL to discuss this issue. According to what RFE/RL has related to me, since this April, its programming broadcast by the Turksat satellite has been subject to signal interference. I have discussed this issue with Azerbaijani government officials and sought their assistance in resolving this issue. During this election year, it is particularly important for the Azerbaijani government to help guarantee the free flow of information to its people.
The United States strongly supports media freedom and freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, and we want to work with our Azerbaijani counterparts to make sure that freedom is secured here.