Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Azerbaijan cuts broadcasting of first independent TV station, orders eviction of opponents

Azerbaijan cuts broadcasting of first independent TV station, orders eviction of opponents

Authorities on Friday cut off broadcasts from Azerbaijan's first independent TV station and ordered the eviction of opposition newspapers and organizations from their offices in the capital, moves government opponents called part of a campaign to silence dissent.
The ex-Soviet republic's Economic Court ordered the eviction of tenants from a building that houses the editorial offices of the opposition newspapers Azadliq and Bizim yol and the headquarters of the Popular Front, a main opposition party.
Tenants were given until Saturday morning to move out of their offices, according to Yashar Aliyev, a top police official in the capital. Police surrounded the building and were allowing two people from each organization to remain but were not letting others in, said Mehman Aliyev, director of the Turan news agency, whose offices are also in the building.
Azadliq, which leases the building, had been warned it would have to leave its offices after a government property committee demanded thousands of dollars (euros) in back rent. Azadliq editor Ganimat Zahidov has been on a hunger strike since Nov. 9, and was hospitalized Friday after his health worsened, said Fuad Mustafayev, deputy chief of the Popular Front, which also had been aware it faced eviction.
Earlier Friday, ANS television was pulled from the air by the government, which said the station _ two days away from celebrating its 15th anniversary with a gala concert _ had not extended its license.
ANS Vice President Mirshahin Agayev said the station had received no official notification, and that the government had made its move without the necessary court decision.
"As always, we want to believe ... that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev is the guarantor of democracy and security of people in Azerbaijan, and we think that the president will interfere and help clear up this misunderstanding," Agayev said. ANS President Vahid Mustafayev later said the station would resolve the issue in the courts, suggesting it would sue or appeal to reverse the decision.
The Popular Front's Fuad Mustafayev said the shut-off of ANS "resulted from the official policy of ending the right to free speech in Azerbaijan."
Two other main opposition parties, Musavat and the Democratic Party, lashed out at the government over what they characterized as a crackdown on freedoms. Musavat issued a statement saying it "sharply condemns these actions and demands an end to pressure and persecution against freedom of speech and the media."
Opposition parties and independent media outlets have suffered frequent harassment in the oil-rich Caspian Sea state, which Aliev has run since 2003, when he succeeded his long-ruling father in elections denounced by the opposition.
A leading Trans-Atlantic security and democracy group, the Organization for Security ad Cooperation in Europe, criticized the actions against ANS. The OSCE is "deeply concerned about the closure," its Baku office head Maurizio Pavesi said it a statement, adding that he was "perplexed" that the decision came into force immediately without allowing for an appeal.