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A Song Contest Becomes a Hot Spot in Feud Between Countries

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  • A Song Contest Becomes a Hot Spot in Feud Between Countries

    New York Times
    Aug 30 2009

    A Song Contest Becomes a Hot Spot in Feud Between Countries

    Published: August 30, 2009

    The simmering conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has entered a
    new theater: the Eurovision Song Contest.

    The talent show, in which television audiences help select a winner
    from among dozens of European national champions, is supposed to be
    apolitical. Voters are barred from supporting their country's
    representatives in the competition, which is organized by the European
    Broadcasting Union, a group of public television companies.

    But some Azerbaijanis who took impartiality to impressive lengths,
    voting for the Armenian entry in the 2009 final in May, reportedly
    were called in to the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry.

    `They were trying to put psychological pressure on me, saying things
    like, `You have no sense of ethnic pride; how come you voted for
    Armenia?'' one of them, Rovshan Nasirli, told Radio Free Europe. `They
    made me write out an explanation, and then they let me go.'

    Previously, the Armenians had raised tensions by slipping images of a
    memorial in Nagorno-Karabakh, the enclave at the center of the dispute
    between the countries, into the video presentation that introduced
    their representative in a preliminary round.

    Ictimai, the Azerbaijani public television company, said last week
    that it had been assured that `no one was invited to or interrogated
    at the Ministry of National Security with regard to the 2009
    Eurovision Song Contest.'

    `Therefore, all reports on this issue in the media are groundless and
    continuing them does not follow any logic,' Ictimai said in a

    But the European Broadcasting Union said Friday that it would examine
    the matter further at a meeting in September in Oslo. `Any breach of
    privacy regarding voting, or interrogation of individuals, is totally
    unacceptable,' Jean Réveillon, director general of the
    broadcasting union, said in a statement. /television/31iht-eurovision.html?hpw