EU warns Azerbaijan over its BBC, Voice of America ban
AFP - 1 hour 57 minutes ago
BRUSSELS (AFP) - - The European Commission warned Azerbaijan Wednesday that its planned ban of local-language broadcasts by the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Liberty could hit plans for deeper ties.
The decision by the authorities there not to renew the licences of several foreign broadcasters was a matter of serious concern," EU Commissioner for External relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement.
The decision ran counter to plans for boost EU-Azerbaijan ties, which is part of the European Union's new 'Eastern Partnership' scheme, she added.
The Eastern Partnership scheme involves Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Nushirvan Magerramli, chairman of the country's State Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting insisted Tuesday the decision had nothing to do with politics.
"Nobody raised concerns when we stopped Russian, Turkish and French television and radio broadcasts in Azerbaijan."
The banned broadcasters will only be able to broadcast into Azerbaijan via cable networks.
Azerbaijan has come under fire from international rights groups and Western governments for limiting media freedom and jailing local journalists.
Critics say foreign-funded news broadcasts are among the only sources of independent information in the oil-rich Caspian Sea nation.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana "very much regrets" the decision by the Azeri government, his office said.
"The decision to stop broadcasting foreign radio stations on national frequencies as of january 1 will deprive listeners of a valuable alternative source of news and information," Solana's spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said.
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EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner (R) and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso give a press conference on December 3, 2008 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. The European Commission warned Azerbaijan Wednesday that its planned ban of local-language broadcasts by the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Liberty could hit plans for deeper ties.
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