Could it be that pop music, traditionally viewed by conservative governments as a scourge, is precipitating a thaw in Azerbaijan? Human rights activists in Baku are hopeful that is the case following the recent release of a prominent independent journalist from prison.
An observation by US Ambassador Matthew Bryza that Fatullayev’s May 26 release “launches a new era of reforms in Azerbaijan” is helping to fuel an impression that it is linked to Azerbaijan’s recent triumph in the Eurovision pop music contest. Rights activists and foreign governments had viewed Fatullayev as a political prisoner, jailed for his anti-government writings.
“What can be a better start for the preparation process for Eurovision-2012 in Baku?” Bryza told journalists on May 27. So far, officials have not commented on President Ilham Aliyev’s May 26 amnesty. Fatullayev was among about 90 prisoners released overall.
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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance journalist in Baku and a board member of the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation – Azerbaijan.