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FPA Blogs: Peaceful Activists Arrested, Amnesty International Reports The Torture Fear

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My first post for Foreign Policy Association Blogs as a regular blogger:

The sanctioned peaceful protest that took place in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku on Saturday, Mar. 17 resulted in arrest of three activists. Members of Bulistan band Jamal Ali, 24, and Natig Kamilov, 24, and another activist Etibar Salmanli, 25, were arrested after a fight that broke during Ali’s performance. The singer has used strong language in his song, displeasing some protesters. During the fight he has also insulted President Ilham Aliyev’s late mother. Young men were sentenced to five to 10 days of detention on charges of “petty hooliganism” and are allegedly subject to tortures under custody.

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The Empire Strikes Back: Anti-German Video Report Presented on Azerbaijani State TV

Due to the upcoming Eurovision contest to be held in Azerbaijan in May, German media has been paying a lot of attention to the country lately. A number of major German outlets like Der Spiegel, NWZ Online and ARD have published and broadcasted pieces on human rights violations in Azerbaijan. Today Azerbaijani state AZTV channel decided to strike back. That is what I call Azeri media at its best.

The anchor presents the piece, saying: "Even though Germany is the most powerful country in the EU, homeless and unemployed people there demand bread from their government. The number of drug addicts is increasing."

Then we see AZTV's correspondent in Frankfurt - business capital of Germany.

"This is Frankfurt, and this is the building of the European Central Bank," the reporter starts and promises to show us the other side of the European economic crisis - the one that "hit ordinary citizens in the face."  The guy points out to several tents in front of him (which is actually the Occupy Frankfurt movement, which was never mentioned in the video), explaining that people from all over Europe and Germany in particular, come there to demonstrate their life conditions to the employees of the ECB and European financial institutions.

Then he interviews one of the "protesters". The first guy says he has a degree and a job, but his salary is only enough to afford rent and, occasionally, new shoes. The young man claims he requested financial help from the government, was sent to different institutions and, eventually, denied in one. He finishes his speech by threatening to leave the country if nothing changes any time soon.

Next we see the conditions the interviewee lives in: his tent, his chair, personal belongings.

The next person interviewed is another young German, complaining about Germany's attempts to help other European countries, while the country itself remains in "this condition." "One of our main concerns as protesters is Germany's readiness to help out other countries," he says and mentions the case of Greece.

Once the "super-reliable" and "credible" vox populi proves the inhumane conditions German youth lives in, my favorite part of the video report begins. The editor didn't hesitate to use the same shot three times, probably because there was more text than footage.

Anyway, back to the point.

The reporters hop in the car and start driving around the block with a dramatic background text: "While preparing this video about Frankfurt, Germany we have witnessed scenes, that would drag anyone's attention to the city's streets," promisingly says the journalist. And now, my favorite sentence: "Look, these people are drug addicts. Right in the middle of Frankfurt," says the reporter while the footage shows ordinary people walking the streets. "We had no other choice but to do this filming from our car because it's not even possible to approach them." Then he goes on describing how dangerous these people are and how the journalists were actually going to approach them and ask how they got to this condition, or how they manage to buy, sell and use drugs in the middle of Frankfurt. However, a nice policeman who was hanging around the violent drug addicts and scared Azeri journalists, told them he cannot guarantee their safety. Apparently, not so long ago another group of journalists wanted to interview "them" and got "seriously injured."

Then the journalist ends the "drug" part of the video saying they've been told that nowadays one can even buy drugs right in front of German middle schools and that the age of users is sometimes as little as 13-14 years.

Now we're moving to the next part. The reporters shows us sex shops, calling them "undercover brothels." And even though they have been told that these places are completely legal and even pay taxes, highly upset Azerbaijanis ask the "Azerbaijani viewer": "But who is exploited in these undercover brothels? Women, of course. And let's say these women do what they do voluntarily. What about their freedom, human rights and gender equality that Germany talks so much about?"

The End.

Throughout the report, we neither hear any statistics or opinions of officials, nor see people using drugs, women sell their bodies, or even the policeman advise the journalists. All we see is a couple of dudes riding around in their car, making assumptions and interviewing two random guys.

And that is pretty much what Azerbaijan state media is about.

Azerbaijan-Iran Tensions Continue, Iranian Journalist Arrested

BAKU - Anar Bayramli, reporter for Iranian Sahar TV channel has been arrested on drug possession charges on Feb. 17 in Azerbaijan. On Feb. 20, court sentenced Bayramli for two months of pre-trial detention.

According to the news reports, police has found 0.387 of heroin in Bayramli’s jacket. The journalist denies allegations and claims that police officers planted the drugs. According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report, Binagady District Court sentenced Bayramli for two months. If convicted, he can be facing up to three years.

This is not the first case of journalist imprisonment in Azerbaijan. Within the last years a number of journalists, editors and bloggers have been arrested and served different detention terms. In its 2012 report Freedom House has ranked Azerbaijan ‘not free’ describing it as “the region’s most repressive regime.”

Bayramli’s case also occurs amidst increasing tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran. Azerbaijani authorities unveiled an allegedly Iran-backed terroristic group, which planned attacks on a number of Israeli officials. Soon after that, Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Azeri ambassador to hand him a protest note against Azerbaijan providing ground for Mossad agents.

Sahar TV, Iranian broadcast channel that employs Bayramli, has been repeatedly accused of spreading pro-Iranian propaganda by Azerbaijani authorities.