The Listening Post talks to journalists who dared to
speak out against President Ilham Aliyev

In this week's The Listening Post, Richard Gizbert puts Azerbaijan under the spotlight. Freedom of the press in the former Soviet republic has not moved on since pre-perestroika days. And with presidential elections on the horizon the government is cracking down further on journalists who refuse to tow the party line.

The Listening Post's Simon Ostrovsky travelled to the capital Baku to meet journalists who had dared to speak out against President Ilham Aliyev. The city was transformed by a US-backed pipeline carrying oil from the Caspian Sea in the east through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan to supply the oil-hungry west. As the oil flowed out and the dollars flowed in, journalists raising questions about the president's monopoly on the economy, said the authorities tried to silence them with threats, violence and prison terms.

Simon Ostrovsky caught up with newspaper journalist Faramaz Allahverdiyev, who was imprisoned for expressing his views on Azerbaijani politics. He sewed his lips together as a symbolic protest against the absence of freedom of the press.

Azerbaijani and Iranian television fights for the
hearts and minds of Azeris
Our other story from the region is the battle between Azerbaijani and Iranian television to win the hearts and minds of the Azeris on both sides of the Azerbaijan-Iran border. In secular Azerbaijan there are around 8 million Azeris, while the neighbouring Islamic Republic of Iran is home to at least twice that number of ethnic-Azeris.

In Azerbaijan, Iranian television is knocking local programmes off air by increasing the power on its transmitters beyond legal limits. The flow of information is not entirely one way. Azerbaijan's government does not fund television broadcasts into Iran but Azeris living in northern Iran said they could see Azerbaijani programming up to 70km south of the border into Iran. Simon Ostrovsky investigates the information war across the airwaves.

In Newsbytes, we stay in the neighbourhood of Azerbaijan. TV coverage of presidential elections in Armenia has come in for criticism from opposition parties for misrepresenting support for candidate Ter Petrossian. They claim a report on Armenian public television showed a virtually empty square at a pro-opposition rally, while footage of the same event on private television showed the square was actually packed with supporters.

In our state run TV segment we show you this stirring example of nationalism, romance and military hardware from Azerbaijan.

Last but not least is our internet video of the week. It is from - you guessed it - Azerbaijan. It is an advert for a little blue performance enhancing pill.

Watch part one of this episode of The Listening Post on YouTube

Watch part two of this episode of The Listening Post on YouTube

This episode of The Listening Post aired on Friday, February 15, 2008

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