Waiting five years for a five-minute chance

June 2, 2009

This recent blog post by an Iranian blogger “cautiously speaking from inside Iran” sounded to me so familiar that I wanted to share it with you:

As you might know, private television channels are forbidden by the law in Iran. In general, power-holders are really touchy about any media that could challenge their authority. […]

However, presidential elections in Iran are a chance for people to find out about diverse, mostly dissident political views in the state-run TV and get relieved from the official political propaganda that could not be cornier. Candidates are allotted equal time to talk about their plans with the citizens in television. […]

I wish [we] had a presidential election everyday in Iran! The sense of freedom is really great!

Well, the same thing we witness here, in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The only difference is that at least in theory we have some private-owned channels – though they broadcast either more pro-government propaganda, or complete trash as very low-budget entertainment shows. Even on 30th April, when a gunmen entered State Oil Academy and gunned down 12 people before killing himself, Azeri TV channels were covering President’s official visit to Belgium or live translation of two pop stars singing some joyful songs. Such a tragedy and the first Azeri TV channel gives the news only after the last Azeri picks it from text messages.

And neither diverse, nor dissident views on TV – neither state-run, nor private. Only during election time, the grip on media loosens and some “extravagant” faces appear on screens. We recall that we have an opposition; they can criticize the government and can have some real programs. However, all of these pecularities must be fit into few minutes strictly regulated by legislation.

Thus, such a strange society we are – waiting five years to see a dissent face on TV for five minutes.

However, those dissent faces are to be blamed most. To be blamed for waiting whole five years to have a chance to speak for five minutes. I even wonder if they shave and have haircut during all these years or do them just before appearing on TV.

I agree that it is almost impossible for an oppositional activist to approach 100 meters to a TV studio, but is the situation so helpless, ladies and gentlemen? Moreover, are TV channels only instruments available to communicate with people of this country? But it is an Internet age – when newspapers are bleeding under the triumphant march of online news resources, and TV channels losing ground to online broadcasting and Youtube. How can you wait for five whole years amongst such diversity of media tools? Why I don’t see Isa Gambar’s blog, Ali Karimli’s Youtube channel or Lala Shovkat’s twitter? Why I can’t find any oppositional leader on Facebook? Don’t they complain that they have no tools to contact with ordinary people? Who hinders them to join Facebook or Odnoklassniki and start to add thousands of Azeri users as friends?

I am a pauvre citizen from a Bakuvian suburb and even I have five blogs, Facebook profile, Youtube channel and a twitter!