Saturday, November 1, 2008

Truth to be Silenced?

The Azerbaijani government has decided to kick Radio Liberty and BBC off the airwaves beginning next year. The government says it wants to restrict local broadcasts of international media.

This is a very bad decision.

Radio Liberty and BBC are the only two stations in the country that provide high quality news and information to the people of Azerbaijan. More importantly, these two radio stations are not afraid to speak out about issues -- including corruption and bribery -- issues that would never see the light of day, otherwise, simply because all other stations are either state-owned or too afraid to speak out.

Since I've been in Azerbaijan, dozens of people have told me that the only place that they can get real news that is not tainted by self-censorship or government intimidation is on these two stations.

Personally, I have worked closely with Radio Liberty and have provided news programs to them on a variety of issues -- the government's lack of attention to Internally Displaced Persons, corruption at various levels of government, poor health care and a host of other issues. Radio Liberty did not hesitate to broadcast this material. In fact, it was often the only broadcaster who was willing to do so.

The entire country suffers if Radio Liberty and the BBC are silenced in Azerbaijan. They are the only places to turn -- when citizens want to hear something other than "happy news."

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