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Rob.

Eurovision host Azerbaijan 'targets activists'

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I was a litle reluctant to post this as I know how these threads can sometimes go, but the report on the News last night was a bit of an eye-opener. Make of this what you will...

Azerbaijan 'targets activists' as it prepares to host Eurovision

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Baku's Hospital Number 1 is an impressive building. It is immaculately clean and well equipped, a symbol of the modern state that oil-rich Azerbaijan wants to be. But upstairs in a hospital bed was another symbol of modern Azerbaijan - a badly injured journalist.

Idrak Abbasov was lying, struggling to breathe, with a bandage around his head, a large cotton pad over one eye, and a brace around his chest.

He had severe concussion, two broken ribs, and he was unsure if he would recover his eyesight.

He had been filming some people who were protesting against their homes being destroyed by the state oil company Socar.

Guards from the company had beaten him up, he said. They punched him, set about him with sticks and then kicked him on the ground.

"I didn't expect them to beat me that much," he said. "They didn't just beat me, they wanted to kill me. If my brothers hadn't called the police, they probably would have killed me.

"We hoped that there wouldn't be such attacks before Eurovision.

"It has always been dangerous to be a journalist in Azerbaijan. Now the situation is deteriorating every day.

"I was beaten so heavily that even journalists from state companies called me, amazed at what happened. I can't imagine what they will do to us after Eurovision. There are not so many of us."

The oil company is aware of the allegations made against its security guards and is conducting an internal investigation.

Spotlight on Eurovision

The Azerbaijani capital Baku is hosting this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

The government is hoping to put on a fantastic show, but to its dismay human rights activists are using the country's brief moment in the headlines to highlight problems that they say are getting worse.

The president of Azerbaijan is Ilham Aliyev. He took over from his father Heydar Aliyev in 2003, who had been president since 1993.

In theory Azerbaijan is a democracy, but life is made so difficult for opposition politicians and journalists that in the 2010 parliamentary elections not a single opposition deputy was elected.

Eynullah Fatullayev was once one of the most respected newspaper editors in Azerbaijan.

Then in 2006 his father was kidnapped. To secure his release he had to close down his papers.

The next year he was arrested and imprisoned - first for slander, and then for encouraging terrorism.

He was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years, but was released last year after international pressure.

He had upset the government with his reporting on Nagorno-Karabakh (an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan currently occupied by Armenia) and Iran.

But he thinks it was his investigation of the death of another journalist which first caused him problems.

"I worked with Elmar Huseynov," he said. "He was editor-in-chief of Monitor magazine in 2005, but unfortunately some pro-governmental forces organised and killed him.

"I found these persons and published all of these materials in Azerbaijan newspapers."

Musicians targeted

Despite the Eurovision Song Contest this month, the ongoing clampdown on free speech includes musicians too.

Jamal Ali is a 24-year-old singer. His music is outside the Azerbaijani mainstream, and often strays into politics.

He was asked to play at a recent protest rally. His first song impolitely suggested that president Ilham Aliyev should "Go away".

The police decided he should be removed from the stage. At which point he insulted the president, and his mother, in the most foul-mouthed way he could.

He was arrested and taken to the police station where he says he was beaten.

"I had a bag on my head, and I was handcuffed from the back," he said.

"And I was sitting on the chair with my legs on another chair. And they were beating on my heels with a stick, a baton. For three hours for the first time and two hours for the second time.

"They arrested me just because I have another opinion, I don't think like them, and I write songs about different stuff.

"I was freed from the jail after 10 days because of Eurovision. If there was no Eurovision I would have been in jail for two years or even five years."

Homes destroyed

One of the most controversial issues in Baku at the moment is the destruction of people's homes to make way for new developments, among them a new highway along the seafront, new hotels and shopping centres and a giant flagpole - the biggest in the world until nearby Turkmenistan built one even bigger.

Human rights groups have documented the demolitions and filmed people being dragged screaming from their homes, complaining that the compensation on offer is inadequate.

But Ali Hasanov, a senior official in the presidential administration says the human rights lobby is being too harsh on the government, which he says has widespread support.

"Even among those whose homes have been demolished, and among journalists, 99% are satisfied and only 1% are unhappy," he said. "In which country in the world are all the people satisfied?

"Naturally, not everything is OK in Azerbaijan. But which country does not some of the problems you see here? Which country does not have a blogger behind bars?"

There is no doubt that Baku has been transformed with some of the country's vast oil and gas wealth.

The city centre is pedestrianised. The citizens of Baku promenade on a summer evening, surrounded by beautifully-restored buildings. Fewer former Soviet cities look as good.

The government wants to use the Eurovision Song Contest to highlight the best of Baku.

But in the run-down back streets, in the ruins of people's homes where some are still living under the threat of the next bulldozer, there is huge resentment.

Many people feel that the country's wealth is being controlled by a tiny elite, and with democracy now almost completely gone they have no say in the future of Azerbaijan.

http://www.bbc.co.uk...europe-17997685

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Video from 'Human Rights Watch' covering similar issues:

And Amnesty International have also been expressing concern of late.

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Thank you for this. It was extremely educational and has had a significant impact on my view of Baku.

It sounds like they are flirting with totalitarian government. The worst possible thing would be to legitimize their choices by awarding them an Olympics.

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RobH, so are you also joining to a BBC anti-Azerbaijan campaign? Bravo... No more comments

It sounds like they are flirting with totalitarian government.

There is nothing like totalitaian government in Azerbaijan. Perhaps it is not as democratic as western countries but then try to get to know it better before judging it from a dirty anti-pr campaigns financed by whoever...

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After all Azerbaijan is not a worse democracy than China and Russia... and even some more countries which hosted Olympics in the past.

Anyway I kindly ask moderators to shut down this thread which is a subjective anti-pr campaign of some media and has nothing to do with Olympics 2020. If not then I will **** around with similar or other negative topics in the sections of other applicant cities. Thanks in advance!

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Seriously, you're always making such black-&-white comparisons! You're comparing 1/5 of humanity, China, to miniscule Azerbaijan?! :huh: Or a great winter sporting nation like Russia that was long overdue for a Winter Olympics? There are NO comparisons to your arguments.

N it's called freedom of speech. And your negative reaction is no longer the nice postings that you're trying to paint Baku with. It's kinda ugly, really. You're not doing Baku 2020 any favors with such abrasive behavior.

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Seriously, you're always making such black-&-white comparisons! You're comparing 1/5 of humanity, China, to miniscule Azerbaijan?! :huh: Or a great winter sporting nation like Russia that was long overdue for a Winter Olympics? There are NO comparisons to your arguments.

N it's called freedom of speech. And your negative reaction is no longer the nice postings that you're trying to paint Baku with. It's kinda ugly, really. You're not doing Baku 2020 any favors with such abrasive behavior.

It is always good to think before leaving a comment, just an advice ;)

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Galandar, I've been impressed with how Baku's been campaigning so far - very plucky bid. But you have to expect, especially if it makes the short list, that the scrutiny is going to get harder and more pointed. ANY bidder with skeletons in its closets are going to be in the spotlight - whether its Turkey and Armenia, Doha and its women's rights, Madrid with its economy and Japan's quake. Baku's been pretty lucky so far in its commentary - but it was bound to have to face this type of coverage eventually as well.

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It is always good to think before leaving a comment, just an advice ;)

Anyway I kindly ask moderators to shut down this thread which is a subjective anti-pr campaign of some media and has nothing to do with Olympics 2020. If not then I will **** around with similar or other negative topics in the sections of other applicant cities. Thanks in advance!

Needs like you need to practice what you preech.

*Preach

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Galandar, I've been impressed with how Baku's been campaigning so far - very plucky bid. But you have to expect, especially if it makes the short list, that the scrutiny is going to get harder and more pointed. ANY bidder with skeletons in its closets are going to be in the spotlight - whether its Turkey and Armenia, Doha and its women's rights, Madrid with its economy and Japan's quake. Baku's been pretty lucky so far in its commentary - but it was bound to have to face this type of coverage eventually as well.

I know about problems of Azerbaijan better than anyone else among the users of this forum. I accept that we still face with problems including the ones in politics. In fact nobody says that we achieved a high level of democracy and don't have problems with that. No, there is still a long way to go and every azerbaijani understands it good. At the same time I can not agree with everything written so negatively. Most of the arguments are taken from interviews with opposition representatives which are happy to provide it on a non-stop basis during the time when the eyes of the whole Europe is on us. They are ready to provide you with whatever information and bash their own country and even claim the song contest or anything alike not to be organized in their country just with one single reason to get attention on themselves. Shame on this looser and traitor attitude... That it it!

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The story was from the BBC-- a highly respected source of international news. There doesn't seem to be any question as to whether the story is true. Galandar, you just don't like the fact that the article is unflattering-- which it is.

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The story was from the BBC-- a highly respected source of international news. There doesn't seem to be any question as to whether the story is true. Galandar, you just don't like the fact that the article is unflattering-- which it is.

BBC started a huge anti-PR campaign after Azerbaijan won Eurovision Song Contest. I don't know exactly who is staying behind all this but one thing is clear they always highlight the negative aspects and refer to arguments from radical opposition in Azerbaijan whose only aim is to discredit the country by all means.

If BBC is so concern and cares about human rights then give me an argument why they never cared about it before we won the contest? Why they never pay attention to the fact of occupation of about 20% of the country by its neighbouring state? Why they are so indifferent to azerbaijani cities which were wiped out by armed forces of neighbouring country? Why they never pay any attention to those rights of hundreds of thousands people who were expelles from their houses? Or is redevelopment of Baku which started far before we won ESC worth to speak in a negative way about more than the property rights of those IDPs? Why?

Sorry but after I see their attitude I have no respect to BBC

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Well you are one of the few. I have enormous respect for them. The BBC has nothing to gain by reporting this material. As I said before, there doesn't seem to be any question as to it's veracity.

As a country's profile becomes higher it attracts more attention. I'm not surprised at all that as Azerbaijan (and Baku in particular) grows they draw more scrutiny. If you don't like the scrutiny brought on by Eurovision, you really won't like the microscope that comes with the Olympics.

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BBC is acting so unprofessional or receaving unprofessional reports and interviews from its "partners" in Azerbaijan that one can explain that in a very easy way.In its numerous articles BBC was claiming that people were forced from their houses and the houses were demolished in order to erect Crystal Hall which can be seen as a violation of property rights:

1) In fact BBC never said that first the area where Crystal Hall is built was a former prison (Bayil prison) and some old docks which were gradually demolished back in 2009. Furthermore, the redevelopment of the area followed with construction of Flag Pole in 2008-2011. In addition, plans on the expansion of seaside promenade were announced some years ago and a tender on construction of 8-lane highway (2-4 km of Baku-Alaty highway) was announced in April 2011.

2) There are areas of Baku where there are some demolitions due to bad conditions of housing and lack of basic infrastructure (the city needs it badly!). Those areas are demolished for improvement of infrastructure and creation of new urban areas. Those areas are: so-called Black City to be transformed into Baku White City http://www.bakuwhitecity.com; Bayil area to transform into a new urban area with expanded seaside promenade; Basin area to be transformed into Winter Boulevard. For any demolished house there is a compensation of 1500 AZN ( +- 1500 EUR) per sq m or a bigger apartments in the newly built residential complexes.

3) The area of Bayil and the site of Crystal Hall as looked since 2008:

Bayil in 2008

Bailovo_Baku_Azerbaijan-2.jpg

Bayil in 2009

-350-601-kil0147.jpg

Bayil in 2010

11bak03g1.jpg

Bayil today

71160616.jpg

71160599.jpg

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Well you are one of the few. I have enormous respect for them. The BBC has nothing to gain by reporting this material.

Who knows...

As a country's profile becomes higher it attracts more attention. I'm not surprised at all that as Azerbaijan (and Baku in particular) grows they draw more scrutiny. If you don't like the scrutiny brought on by Eurovision, you really won't like the microscope that comes with the Olympics.

It is not about what I like and what I dislike. I am talking about misinformation spread out by this media. How come one media became so overhyped to publish a big number of negative (nothing positive at all!) articles about the same country in a short time? No wonder there is something behind that ;)

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Personally, I think it's good - and about time - to have some balance. Baku's marketing has virtually been the teflon bid to now - no dirt has been sticking, just lots of feel good stories about how the Crystal Hall and marketing have been progressing better than most expected. That was never going to last - especially if they progress to the next stage.

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Personally, I think it's good - and about time - to have some balance. Baku's marketing has virtually been the teflon bid to now - no dirt has been sticking, just lots of feel good stories about how the Crystal Hall and marketing have been progressing better than most expected. That was never going to last - especially if they progress to the next stage.

Right. It can be seen as a token of legitimacy -- but also as evidence that they are still not ready for the Games.

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Anyway I kindly ask moderators to shut down this thread which is a subjective anti-pr campaign of some media and has nothing to do with Olympics 2020. If not then I will **** around with similar or other negative topics in the sections of other applicant cities. Thanks in advance!

We are in free world... with free expression.... so anyone could express concerns, doubts, opposition.... No censorship !!! (but, may be that's new to you ???)

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Welcome to the free world, Galandar. When you want to host events like the Olympic Games be prepared for the world's media to ask questions. The BBC is only doing it's job by asking these questions. Nobody concentrated on Azerbaijan before because there were bigger fish to fry. Once you won the ESC and bid for the Olympics it opened you up yo scrutiny. If you don't like it, don't bid.

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We are in free world... with free expression.... so anyone could express concerns, doubts, opposition.... No censorship !!! (but, may be that's new to you ???)

I am also in a free world and let me also express my opinion on this matter. We are in free world ;) The issue is that the topic itself is totally political based on anti-pr campaign of BBC which spread out a big number of articles on this issue. In my previous email I also clearly showed that expropriation that BBC claims has nothing to do to the Crystal Hall and ESC 2012. In the end, is it all about Olympics 2020? I don't think so.

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Welcome to the free world, Galandar. When you want to host events like the Olympic Games be prepared for the world's media to ask questions. The BBC is only doing it's job by asking these questions. Nobody concentrated on Azerbaijan before because there were bigger fish to fry. Once you won the ESC and bid for the Olympics it opened you up yo scrutiny. If you don't like it, don't bid.

I am in the free world, no reason to welcome me. I am not against a healthy and reasonable critics but I really hate misinformation and anti-pr campaign where only negative part of the story is shown which is even double destructive for the reputation of the country which is not a well-known one.

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I am also in a free world and let me also express my opinion on this matter. We are in free world ;) The issue is that the topic itself is totally political based on anti-pr campaign of BBC which spread out a big number of articles on this issue. In my previous email I also clearly showed that expropriation that BBC claims has nothing to do to the Crystal Hall and ESC 2012. In the end, is it all about Olympics 2020? I don't think so.

You are welcome to comment, contest, give arguments against the BBC's position.... that the free rights of expression.... but to call the mod to realize a censorship of this thread, is not a good move to show your understanding of this concept !

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You are welcome to comment, contest, give arguments against the BBC's position.... that the free rights of expression.... but to call the mod to realize a censorship of this thread, is not a good move to show your understanding of this concept !

I did this because the topic is too political. Yes, I agree that Azerbaijan is not as democratic as western bidders and there is still a long way for us to move towards that. In the end it is a major sport event not a political congress and if there was matter there would be no Beijing 2008 and Sochi 2014.

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I am sure that the BBC doesn't report about Azerbaijan or Baku negatively only...

You are aware that "Western" media are trying to show the whole of an issue, since you are living in Vienna - you might not agree with all the different articles, reports etc. etc. which are shown on TV or published in a newspaper, but I am quite sure that you are aware of the human rights in Azerbaijan and the situation e.g. in Austria - therefore you are aware of the differences, also.

I think you speak German, Galander - did you read the interview of the EBU-president Mrs. Deltenre in the Spiegel about the ESC in Baku and the human rights in Azerbaijan?

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