Azerbaijani campaigners have called on their government to refrain from preventing public events amid claims the country’s authorities recently blocked the screening of a documentary on freedom of artistic expression.
“Art claims democracy” was set to run at the Park Inn Hotel, Baku, on January 24 as part of the Art for Democracy campaign; a suspicious power cut halted all activity.
The power outage was limited only to the second floor of the building, the floor on which the documentary film was to be aired. Organisers confronted hotel staff at the time who informed them of a technical problem. According to Art for Democracy some hotel employees later unofficially admitted the power shortage was a result of pressures on the hotel management.
A public statement was published by Art for Democracy in-light of the incident: “Prevention of the screening of a film, which features critical opinions about several top ranking officials including Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, could have been organised by no one except law-enforcement agencies under the instructions of high-ranking officials. By taking this step, the government attempted to make the hotel, a private enterprise, and civil society representatives to confront each other.”
The campaign stated the Azerbaijani government needs to be weary of preventing such events and to respect human rights, emphasising how such restrictions only reflect badly the international image of the country.