EUROVISION VOTERS INTIMIDATED?
by Eric Pfanner

The International Herald Tribune
August 31, 2009 Monday
France

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

FULL TEXT 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 statement.

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 Reveillon, director general of the broadcasting
union, said in a statement.