Mr Lloyd, what is your reaction to news that the President said that ANS might be able to broadcast again?
It is very important that we do see ANS broadcasting again. This station has developed a reputation all over the world, not simply in Azerbaijan, as probably the most independent of the media in Azerbaijan. It really is important that Azerbaijan as a whole realises that it needs to honour its commitments to have a free media. The administrative decision to close it was a very retrograde step. I do hope that the President’s words now mean that the competent authorities will look very closely at this and that ANS begins to operate again very soon.
There is concern at the Council of Europe. Will this subject be discussed at the January session?
It is bound to cause concern: one of the commitments that Azerbaijan entered into was to have a properly free media, both print and broadcasting, and not to use administrative methods, technical ways of preventing the media from functioning. There has been a long dispute between the administration and the ANS. I have seen the President’s words about this, which are welcome, but I urge that the competent authorities bring this matter to an end and get ANS back on the air. The people should have access to free broadcasting.
Is there any plan for a report for the January session on the situation?
I have spoken to my colleague Mr Herkel, co-rapporteur on Azerbaijan, about the fact-finding visit we made a few weeks ago now. We won’t be reporting to the plenary in the January session, though some of my colleagues were in Baku this week and they might be reporting back.
The Azeri authorities are simply bringing things under regulations. Do you see their point?
I’m bound to agree with anyone who stresses the importance of respecting the law, but here there is a disagreement with the application of the law. ANS say that they complied with the demands, the NTRC say they don’t agree. It is not in the interests of anybody to have ANS off the air, but rather to have them broadcasting, so that the people can see there is good faith in this and resolve these technical and possibly legal issues in the proper way.
The government insists that its commitment to media freedom cannot be questioned, otherwise why would they engage in the EU partnership programmes or Council of Europe programmes which all aim for media standards to be as good as possible?
It certainly is the case in Azerbaijan’s relationship with the Council of Europe. Freedom of the media is essential to that and for its membership of OSCE. There is no doubt of its pre-exisiting promise to commit itself to freedom of the media. People are disturbed when they see the closure of ANS and the eviction of the Azadliq newspaper. This gives very difficult signals, even if the authorities insist these are not connected and are purely technical matters.
Do you think that, as President Aliyev puts it, these issues are unnecessarily politicised and are just purely technical?
I want to urge President Aliyev and those responsible for the media that these issues should be solved, and to make sure that ANS is back on the air. Let the technical issues be solved in the right technical forum, without taking the media out of circulation, because that is not in the interests of people of Azerbaijan.
It doesn’t look good for the image of the country?
Well it can never look good, frankly, the eviction of a newspaper and the closing down of a broadcaster at the same time. People are bound to draw the conclusion that it is political. Now if it is not, the right way is to get them back functioning and that is what I hope that the competent authorities in Azerbaijan will now do, even if it does mean, further down the line, that there has to be some conclusion to the outstanding technical issues – ‘keep the media functioning’ is the real message, and I say this because it is actually in Azerbaijan’s own interests.
Mr Lloyd thank you very much for the interview.