New motto of Azeri Government – there’s no such thing as bad publicity?

As the government in Baku continues to crack down on dissent, the least it is concerned with seems to be its reputation abroad.

This summer it was really hot in Azerbaijan, and not only in regard to temperature. In the beginning of July, two youth activists and bloggers, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada were assaulted while dining in a restaurant in downtown Baku. They tried to file a complaint in police, but were detained instead and got two-month sentences while awaiting trial for alleged hooliganism. Since then, fifth consecutive kangaroo court behind closed doors has denied justice to them.

Reason? Criticism of the government policies. And a satirical Youtube video ridiculing government’s purchase of two donkeys from Germany for a price of 40,000 euros each.

Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International, OSCE and European Union, UN and a number of foreign countries have stepped in, as well as Emin and Adnan’s respective Alma Maters – Saarland University and University of Richmond. Letters to the President of Azerbaijan arrive in piles. The New York Times and the London Times talk about ‘crackdown on online media‘ and ‘repressions in Azerbaijan‘. Yet, ‘don’t politicize the case’ and ‘bloggers are hooligans’ are the message coming from the authorities.

Enough negative portrayal, you think? Definitely not! Because, those who voted for Armenian entry in Eurovision Song Contest 2009 have to be interrogated to learn their real degree of patriotism. Don’t recall the Nagorno-Karabakh War? Then we will remind you.

In the middle of August, some forty people receive sudden phone calls to arrive at a local branch of National Security Ministry. And they are asked there why they voted for Armenian song. Ah, you liked it? What a terrible taste you have, by the way…

Yes, music is a national security matter in Azerbaijan, it seems. No matter that BBC, Guardian and Reuters know our vulnerabilities and the deeds of Azeri intelligence services. Besides, if you hear that the European Broadcasting Union is launching an investigation into the case – after all, if people can’t vote to the song they like, then what a contest is this? – still not enough publicity.

As we don’t like Hollywood style happy ends, then here is the third news for you – Azeri journalist and newspaper editor, as well as minority rights activist Novruzali Mammadov dies in jail where he was serving 10 years for treason charges. Spying for Iran, as well as "cooperating with linguist colleagues from the USA, Canada, Britain, Germany, and research on the contemporary Talysh language by conducting social surveys, trips, etc." Neither forget his appeal to Azerbaijan Public TV to open a program in native tongue of the ethnicity he belonged, as well as 800,000 Azeri nationals still do.

However, we should understand that it is capitalism and private groups should also get their market share of this publicity. Therefore, tomorrow World Azerbaijanis Congress is going to have a round-table named "The Action of 43 Azerbaijani Citizens Who Voted for Armenian Representative [in Eurovision] in the focus of public discussion". Attendants will be Congress members, famous intellectuals of Azerbaijan, activists from Iranian Azerbaijan, students and media people [with axes]. As if the fantastic riches of the cave have been already acquired, and all remaining is to get rid of "40 thieves". Open, Sesame!