Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Radio Azadliq means Radio Liberty

The word Azadliq (that is Azadlıq in cryllic) in the Azerbaijani language means Freedom or Liberty. There is a popular newspaper in Azerbaijan named Azadliq. In the city of Baku lies the biggest city-center square in the country, Azadliq square. [LINK] Prior to 1991, the square was named Lenin Square which leads to my third example: Radio Azadliq.
Radio Azadliq is just another name for Radio Free Europe (RFE) or Radio Liberty. The station broadcasts programs in many languages: Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bashkir, Bosnian, Belarusian, Chechen, Crimean Tatar, Dari, English, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Tajik, Tatar, Turkmen, Ukrainian, Uzbek... Notice that Spanish, French and Italian aren't on there. RFE has always targeted Western Europe.

The division between the Russian sphere of influence and the West has a special relevance in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan first declared independence in 1918, breaking loose of the Russian empire in it's post WWI collapse. But Azerbaijan has oil. So after the rise of communism,under Lenin, Russia attacked, and an estimated 20,000 Azerbaijani soldiers died defending their 2-year old country. This soviet control remained status quo until 1991, when following Russia's economic collapse, Azerbaijan declared independence again. The Soviet response was more muted this time. They supported a military coup which installed a soviet-era former government. But Azerbaijan retained a somewhat independent-ish media until about 2007. More here.

In 2007 came the arrest of more than a dozen reporters critical of the regime. Newspapers were shut down, crushed by lawsuits. In 2008, the government of Azerbaijan  imposed a ban on all foreign media broadcasting in the country, including BBC, Evropa-Plus, Voice of America, and RFE, effective  January 1st, 2009. Radio Azadliq lost their 101.7 FM signal, more here. RFE continued on with a local office, but with content only available on shortwave, satellite or online.  More here and here.
Annually the regime created new restrictions on freedom of the press. They passed new laws banning photography without permission, anti-libel laws, bogus "hooliganism" rules. In 2011 at least 50 domestic and foreign journalists were harassed or attacked in 2011 in Azerbaijan. Then came the big 20014 crackdown.  The government has accused the station and its employees of espionage and of being a foreign-financed entity. The first charge is bogus, but the second charge is entirely true. Radio Free Europe has been financed by the American government since it was founded in 1953. The Baku office only opened in the 1990s.

The police raided the that same Baku office and seized computers, flash drives, documents and other materials, and then sealed the premises. A dozen employees of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Azerbaijan were arrested on December 27th and detained for up to 12 hours of questioning and/or torture. Officials even detained the station’s cleaning woman.

Afterward, Radio Azadliq stubbornly continued it's programming. The regime responded by blocking their website and and some social media platforms. In 2016 Radio Azadliq’s daily program Azadliq A-Live was been taken off air by Kanal-V, a satellite television channel is broadcast over the Turksat 1C 420 Satellite. No explanation was given. Now limited to Facebook and Youtube, Radio Azadliq still presses on. More here.

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