A shuttered television station in Azerbaijan has asked the revered Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev to put in a good word for the channel with his son, the current President Ilham Aliyev, so that it can return to broadcasting. One minor problem with the request -- Heydar Aliyev has been dead for almost 14 years.
Faced with routine crackdowns and arrests, Azerbaijani media have often appealed for help and looked for protection beyond the ex-Soviet republic’s borders. But until this point, nobody sought help in the hereafter.
ANS TV thought differently.
Last summer, the government barred ANS, a privately owned, pro-government channel, from broadcasting after reports surfaced that it planned to air an interview with the US-based imam Fethullah Gülen. The move was seen as Azerbaijan accommodating ally Turkey, which has accused Gülen of staging a 2016 coup attempt. A court in Baku later revoked ANS TV’s license.
Nothing left to do but petition the man promoted as the founding father of Azerbaijan’s post-Soviet statehood.
“Our Great Friend and Leader,” opens the letter, in a style reminiscent of the communist era, when many penned appeals to Lenin, even though the great comrade was safely interred in a mausoleum in Moscow.
“We apologize for bothering your spirit, but you told us to get in tough in times of trouble,” the missive reminds the late Azerbaijani leader. The signatories of the letter say that they chose to contact the elder Aliyev because they failed to convey to Aliyev, junior the misfortunes and injustice that has fallen upon them.
Shutting down independent news outlets and arresting critical journalists is nothing new in Azerbaijan, rated by international democracy watchdogs as one of the most oppressive countries in the post-Soviet space. But ANS TV was seen as neither independent nor critical. Its strange letter contains reminders of the channel’s many past accomplishments and states that it continues to “follow the path” of Heydar Aliyev.
It asks him to be the judge of the station’s misfortunes.
No reports have arrived yet about the late president’s response.