Azerbaijan anti-censorship petition goes to Houses of Parliament
British MPs back Index campaign to protect free speech in Eurovision host state
04 Jul 12

The government of Azerbaijan, led by autocratic President Ilham Aliyev, thought the Eurovision Song Contest was the perfect opportunity to airbrush the country’s poor human rights record. Yet even after spending an estimated $750 million on Eurovision, thanks to Index on Censorship and its partners in the International Partnership Group for Azerbaijan (IPGA), the message got out that free speech is not protected in Aliyev’s Azerbaijan.

During the Eurovision Song Contest, Index on Censorship launched a petition to support free speechwhich was signed by over 4,000 people, from all over the world, including Britain’s Lord Ken MacDonald QC, Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir and Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. The petition was tweeted on the night by high-profile UK figures including  journalists Owen Jones and Caitlin Moran and comedy performers and writers Stephen Fry and Graham Linehan.

Today Azerbaijani writer and activist Emin Milli met British parliamentarians to get their support for the petition, which calls on Aliyev end violations of free speech in Azerbaijan.

Emin Milli presenting the petition to Helen Goodman MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP and Grahame Morris MP, alongside Natasha Schmidt from Index on Censorship and Murad Gassanly from the Azerbaijan Democratic Association

A letter has now been sent to President Aliyev with the petition, co-signed by Index on Censorship, ARTICLE 19, Media Diversity Institute, Committee To Protect Journalists, Freedom House, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Human Rights House Foundation and PEN International. It calls on the Azerbaijani president to:

  • Ensure the protection of his citizens’ rights, particularly the rights to free expression and freedom of assembly
  • End impunity for those who commit crimes against journalists, and allow media workers to go about their work without fear of violence or arrest

You can find more about the human rights situation on Index’s Meanwhile in Azerbaijan page, or on the IPGA website.