Media

Aserbaidschan startet Kampagne gegen Frankfurt

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German Berliner Zeitung has put together a piece about the anti-German video report broadcasted on Azerbaijani AZTV channel on March 5, and linked my blog post on this topic. Here is the article:

Vor dem Eurovision Song Contest prangerten deutsche Politiker Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Baku an. Nun wehrt sich Aserbaidschan mit einer Schmutzkampagne gegen Deutschland. Besonders Frankfurt kommt schlecht weg.

Arbeitslose hausen in Zelten im Schatten der Bankentürme, Frauen müssen in Sex-Shops arbeiten, die nichts weiter sind als getarnte Bordelle, und die Zahl der Drogenabhängigen, die durch die Straßen wanken, steigt stetig.

So berichtete das aserbaidschanische Staatsfernsehens AZTV kürzlich in einer Reportage aus Frankfurt am Main, unterlegt mit Bildern vom Occupy-Protestcamp vor der Europäischen Zentral Bank und einer Kamerafahrt durch das Bahnhofsviertel der Mainmetropole.

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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.

Terrorists in Azerbaijan. Again?

Photo credit RFE/RL Azerbaijan

Photo credit RFE/RL Azerbaijan

Last month a friend of mine contacted me from France, asking "what the hell is going on in Azerbaijan?!". Apparently, she saw the notification that the Embassy of the United States has posted on its webpage, which warned about a terroristic threat and advised its citizens to "remain vigilant, particularly in public places associated with the Western community." A reminder was posted again on February 11th. Some media sources reported the same alerts being posted on the UK embassy's webpage, but I couldn't find it anywhere. On February 14th news about the temporary closure of the Israeli embassy for "technical reasons" broke. The next day it was reported the embassy was back at work, but again, some media sources denied this information.

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Today, around 18.00 one of the central streets (BulBul Avenue) was shut down because of an information about a bomb planted. The pedestrians were asked not to cross the street, the traffic was forbidden. According to RFE/RL Baku, the situation was provoked by an anonymous call about an unknown box left on the street (which is more than a common thing to see in Azerbaijan, but still). The police closed the subway and kept the box surrounded for 45 minutes. The paramedics were also waiting at the scene. It turned out the suspicious object was just an empty shoe box.

The last terrorist attack took place in Azerbaijan in April 30, 2009 in the State Oil Academy. The officials report about 13 people killed and 10 injured. The terrorist, a Georgian citizen of Azerbaijani descent, reportedly committed suicide at the scene.

Corrupt No More

A good things about living in small communities is that rumors usually turn out to be true. I do not mean the gossiping-about-people-and-their-sex-lives kind of rumors, but the ones about important news. Right after Tunisia held the revolution and in the middle of the Egyptian one, the air in Baku started to change. A wave few around Baku, whispering that taking bribes is now forbidden - there is no corruption anymore. And, well, after living your whole life in a country, where you know you'll have to bribe whatever you do and wherever you go - it sounds kind of shocking at first. And since you also know "where the news come from" you don't believe the media sources either.

And that's when you go to the people and ask them if it's true. It turns out it is. A friend of a neighbor was supposed to pay 100 000 EUR annual bribe for his four supermarkets. When he came to the tax guys, they silently sent him to the cashiers, where he paid his official 10 000 EUR and went back home absolutely happy.

Another guy brings cars for sell from Europe to Azerbaijan. He usually pays around 80 000 EUR for several cars on the customs. This time, however, he was also sent to the cashiers and paid 5 000 EUR. He went back to "his guys" and offered to give them the rest, but the horrified used-to-be-bullies sent him home and told not to come back with these kind of offers. The guy celebrated all night and all day.

Then you read about dozens fired in ministries, reforms to be implemented in the most corrupt structures and special services created to address people's problems and complaints. And for the first time in your life you feel the scent of Change.

But the saddest part is, the first thing to come to your mind is: "I wonder how long it will last". Because, let's be honest, why does it take two revolutions thousand miles away to fix the biggest problem, that harmed and drove away two generations of your people and made the country #134 in the world corruption index?

However, since as any desperate activist I'm not only a cynical critic, but also a believer, I'll lean back in my chair and wait. I'll wait for the 19-year-old to be released from the prison; I'll wait for my friends to be taken off the hook of a conditional release for the crime they did not commit; I'll wait for the irrational projects and economical solutions to be abolished or fixed; I'll wait for the day when I will not need rumors to believe the news.

Amen to that.

Sandmonkey on MSNBC

Sandmonkey and yours truly being scared at Stassi archives in Berlin, Germany in 2010.

Sandmonkey and yours truly being scared at Stassi archives in Berlin, Germany in 2010.

Famous Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey, whom I recently interviewed for RFE/RL and who later was arrested, assaulted and basically robbed by the Egyptian police, is talking on MSNBC from Tahrir square here.

10 Best Super Bowl Ads

I love creative commercials. I mean, who doesn't? Viral Video Chart has put together Best Super Bowl Ads, according to the number of times they have been shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Mashable shows the top 10. Enjoy.

10. Budweiser: Wassup

And Wassup's remake made during the last presidential campaign in the US.

9. Snickers Super Bowl Commercial 2010 with Betty White

8. Audi 2010 Green Car Super Bowl Commercial

7. Doritos® - Crash the Super Bowl 2010 Finalist - Snack Attack Samurai

6. 1984 Apple's Macintosh Commercial

Also, check out the new Motorola - Empower the People.

5. NEW E*TRADE: Baby - Girlfriend

4. Doritos®: House Rules

3. Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

2. 9/11 Bud Commercial: AIRED ONLY ONCE

1. Volkswagen Commercial: The Force.

"5 years ago I was a minority opposition, today - I am the people."

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He was the first person I called when I saw news from Egypt. "I can't talk, dear, I'm pretty teargased right now", he said.

I met him in Berlin. It was a blogger conference with participants coming from all around the world. For him it wasn't the first official international event he was invited to because of his activity. Very soon, we found a lot in common - he would tell me about his society, I would tell him about mine. When the uprise in Egypt began, I couldn't think of a better person to interview about it.

My interview with him for RFE/RL:

"Sandmonkey" is one of a number of bloggers and activists in Egypt getting the message out of the country through Twitter (he is sending his tweets via a friend in Jordan). RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service correspondent Nigar Fatali spoke with him about Internet activism in Egypt and its role in the country's uprising.

RFE/RL: What does it feel like to live in a country where Internet and mobile phone connections can be shut down by the government at any time?

Sandmonkey: It is not fun [laughing]. It clearly affects you. People are being transported back to 1980; they have to go back from technological progress to using landlines. And most of them don't even know the landline numbers of their friends to call and check on them. Having no access to the Internet and a curfew are driving people insane. For activists it means the inability to upload pictures and videos of the horrors that are taking place here, while for many other people it basically means the inability to do their job. No one goes to work because there's no Internet. The banks don't work because of that; the country in general is in paralysis. The fact that the government can shut down the Internet and phone connection anytime they want is simply unnerving.  

RFE/RL: Why do you blog under a nickname? Do you plan to reveal yourself?

Sandmonkey:I've always kept my identity anonymous and I'm not planning to reveal it because some members of my family are affiliated with the ruling NDP party and I don't want to put them at risk. 

RFE/RL: What is it like to be an activist in Egypt? Do you get oppressed or threatened?

Sandmonkey:These days it actually feels strange; scarier and more exciting. One day you're breaking barricades, the next day you get tear gassed, and the day after that you try to escape the gunshots of street thugs. But it's very rewarding because we see ourselves and our people being validated. We're proud of them for taking responsibility for their destiny and saying "No" for the first time in their lives. Everything about being an Egyptian got redefined in the last days. Before, many people would not agree with us. No one would believe that we could take action or do anything together, as a nation. Today, everybody is with us. Now people believe it's possible. Five years ago I was a minority opposition. Today, I am the people. And this feeling is indescribable.

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Быть египтянином сегодня...

My interview with Egyptian blogger and my friend 

Sandmonkey

for Radio Liberty in Russian. Soon to be published in English.

Sandmonkey – никнейм, который выбрал для себя один египетский блоггер и активист, начавший вести свой блог в 2004-м году. Он взял себе ник и скрывает свое настоящее имя из соображений безопасности.

На сегодняшний день sandmonkey является одним из самых популярных блоггеров в Египте - его блог насчитываыет более 5 300 000 просмотров, а его страничку на Twitter отслеживают почти 6 000 человек.

В Египте почти с начала событий введены ограничения на Интернет, а с понедельника прекратил работу последний провайдер. Нигяр Фатали взяла интервью для РадиоАзадлыг у sandmonkey по телефону вечером 31 января. - Каково это - жить в стране, где правительство может отключить интернет и мобильную связь в любое время? - Это невесело (смеется). Воздействует на человека. Сейчас люди перенесены обратно в 1980, из технологического прогресса им приходится возвращаться к наземным линиям связи, проще говоря, к городским телефонам. И большинство из них даже и не знает домашних номеров своих друзей и близких. Комендантский час и отсутствие интернета сводит людей с ума.

Активисты лишены возможности загружать фотографии и видео тех страшных событий, которые здесь происходят. Для других отсутствие интернета означает невозможность работать - люди просто перестали выходить на работу. Банки тоже не работают, страна в подвешенном состоянии. Сам факт, что правительство может отключить нашу связь с миром в любой момент настораживает и откровенно нервирует.

- Почему Вы пишите под псевдонимом? Вы планируете раскрыть свое имя своим читателям в свое время?

- Я всегда писал под никнеймом и не собираюсь раскрывать свое имя, потому что некоторые мои родственники тесно связаны с правящей партией и я не хочу подвергать их опасности.

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