The EBU investigation into the reported Azerbaijan arrests and interrogations of people that voted for Armenia at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest has been concluded. The EBU can not take any sanctions against Azeri broadcaster, Ictimai. Instead, they will change the Eurovision Song Contest rules so that braodcasters can be held accountable for actions taken by governments and telecom companies with respect to the competition.
This morning the EBU confirmed by email to esctoday.com (copied in full below) that the situation that under the 2009 and previous Eurovision Song Contest rules, it would be impossible to bring sanctions against a broadcaster for actions that were taken by the country's government and telecom provider.
For that reason, the EBU will change the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest "to hold the participating broadcaster strictly liable for any disclosure of information which could be used to identify voters". If such activities ever take place in future, the EBU will be able to act and ban the country from the competition or fine the broadcaster who will from now on be accountable.
The investigation came after reports that people in Azerbaijan that voted for Armenia had been traced by the government and interrogated for acting in a denationalistic way and being a potential threat to national security. The news was circulated worldwide, and it seems unlikely that voters in the country will risk voting for a country that could lead to their arrest or questioning by the ministry for security. Whilst the Azeri broadcaster has confirmed that people were spoken to, they deny any interrogation or arrests were made in their statements to the EBU.
THE FULL EBU STATEMENT:
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) received responses from Azerbaijan. regarding allegations that telephone voters in Azerbaijan who voted for the Armenian song in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest were interrogated by security police.
Ictimai, the EBU’s Azeri Member which broadcast this year’s Song Contest from Moscow in May, confirmed its commitment to free and fair voting. While two individuals had been invited to the Ministry of National Security, Ictimai said, the Ministry of National Security had given assurances that nobody had been questioned, either officially or unofficially, on voting in the competition itself.
The EBU’s Director General, Jean Réveillon, said he took note of the statements. However, he stressed that the freedom to vote for any song except the one of the country where you are watching is one of the cornerstones of the contest. “Any breach of privacy regarding voting, or interrogation of individuals, is totally unacceptable,” he added.
The EBU committee responsible for running the Eurovision Song Contest, the so-called Reference Group, examined the matter at a meeting in Oslo on 11 September 2009 and decided to amend the rules of the Eurovision Song Contest to hold the participating broadcaster strictly liable for any disclosure of information which could be used to identify voters*. The new rule aims to ensure that voters’ privacy is respected, and if it is not the EBU will be in a position to impose appropriate sanctions on the offending broadcaster.
*The regulations governing the previous editions of the Eurovision Song Contest imposed an obligation on the telecom companies involved in the televoting to respect the privacy of the voters. However, the EBU does not have an ability to impose sanctions on them, therefore the new rule was developed.