Interview with David J. Kramer

Former Deputy Secretary of State David Kramer in his interview with Turan news agency comments on recent situation in media freedom and US policy towards Azerbaijan in these issues.

Turan: - Mr Kramer, you have probably heard about the arrest of the two young youth activists in Azerbaijan. What is your opinion on such a situation?

- I am very disturbed by the reports about the two youth leaders, Adnan Hajizada and Emin Milli, who were beaten by unknown assailants but then arrested and detained by authorities and tried on spurious charges of hooliganism. They were convicted and sentenced to two months in jail over protests from many in the human rights and diplomatic communities; their assailants, meanwhile, were released. Coming around the same time as the visit to Baku by the Deputy Secretary of State makes this particularly disturbing. These activists should be released and those responsible for the attacks on them should be arrested.

Turan: - How do you see the western support in this situation to the young bloggers? Do you believe the US and EU administrations are quite tough in their reaction?

- The international community has responded to this situation but it needs to be louder in voicing its concerns and objections. We should be standing firm by the principle of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, including Internet freedom.

Turan: - Some media organizations in Azerbaijan wrote that these two guys are the instruments of the West to do another orange revolution, like the ones in Georgia and Ukraine. do you believe these kind of statements have a base?

- I do not believe those statements and would reiterate that the handling of these individuals raises serious concerns about the government’s respect for human rights.

Turan: - The Western world, including US administration has been deeply concerned on the media situation in Azerbaijan, particularly the closure of the foreign radio broadcasting services in Azerbaijan. at the same moment there are still dialogs on the government levels going on between Azerbaijani and Western officials (US also). so what would your message for the US government? - how do you think they should be addressing the Azeri government?-

As I did when I served in the U.S. Department of State in the Bush Administration and traveled twice last year to Baku, we should be pressing President Aliyev to veto the NGO law, free the remaining journalists still in detention, and return the suspended foreign broadcasts to the air. I hope my successor and others in the U.S. administration make sure that human rights issues receive prominent attention in discussions with the government. Dialogue is not an end in itself but should lead to real progress and concrete results.

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