As the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group pays its first visit to Baku, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, Markus Löning, has today (1 September) issued the following statement:
“I am delighted that the organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest have called so unequivocally for freedom of the media and freedom of opinion in Azerbaijan. They have my wholehearted backing on this. The mere fact that such calls are needed shows how bad the human rights situation in Azerbaijan is.
Azerbaijan acceded to the European Convention on Human Rights ten years ago. The Government in Baku must at long last adhere to its obligations under the Convention. Over recent years, however, things have unfortunately gone in the other direction: again and again people are intimidated, arrested and imprisoned simply for freely expressing their opinion.
I am particularly outraged that, just a few days ago, six young people in Azerbaijan were sentenced to up to two-and-a-half years in prison because they demonstrated for freedom, human rights and the rule of law.
I expect Azerbaijan to release all political prisoners without delay. The time has come for full freedom of opinion and the press, as well as full freedom to demonstrate, to be ensured. Baku needs to understand that Europe cannot gather for a joyful musical event unless human rights are respected.”
The Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group arrived in Azerbaijan yesterday for a two-day preparatory visit. The Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Azerbaijan in late May next year.
Further information on the Reference Group’s visit to Baku can be found at www.eurovision.tv and www.eurovision.de.