Armenia–Azerbaijan relations in the Eurovision Song Contest
Armenia–Azerbaijan relations in the Eurovision Song Contest have been acrimonious since both countries entered in 2006 (Armenia) and 2008 (Azerbaijan) due to current still ongoing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh which has been under Armenian military control since 1993. The countries' relations in the Eurovision Song Contest received media attention in 2009 when a series of voting controversies between Armenia and Azerbaijan unfolded throughout the semi-finals and final of the 2009 contest.
2006 Azerbaijani complaint
In 2006 when Armenia sent its first entry to the Eurovision Song Contest 2006 in Athens, Azerbaijani mass-media complained that the official website of the Eurovision Song Contest showed the first Armenian representative André's place of birth as "Nagorno-Karabakh", despite the latter being de jure part of Azerbaijan and so at the time of André's birth in 1979 (Azerbaijan SSR). As a result, the "Place of Birth" section was removed from the singer's profile.
Postcard controversy and aftermath
During the first semi-final of the 2009 contest, the introductory "postcard" leading into the Armenian performance depicted, amongst other monuments, We Are Our Mountains, a statue located in Stepanakert, capital city of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which is a de jure part of Azerbaijan. After an official complaint by Azerbaijan, the video clip was edited out for the broadcast of the final. However, in retaliation the presenter of the Armenian votes, Sirusho, held up a clipboard with the monument's picture on it as she read off the votes, and in the background a screen in Yerevan's main square could be seen to display the monument. Azerbaijan's "postcard" depicted the Maqbaratoshoara and Segonbad monuments, symbols of the cities of Tabriz and Urumieh, in Iran's Azeri region. Armenian media complained that while Eurovision forbade display of an Armenian monument located in Nagorno-Karabakh after the Azerbaijani protest, it allowed Azerbaijan's inclusion of the Iranian monuments. Despite the controversy, 1,065 Armenians voted for the Azerbaijani entry and Armenia gave Azerbaijan one point. A total of 43 Azerbaijanis voted for the Armenian entry.
There were also allegations that the Azerbaijani broadcast had failed to show an image of the Armenian representatives during the 2009 final, with another contestant's entry shown instead, and that no number had been shown for the public to call and vote for the Armenian song. However, Azerbaijani television denied these allegations and presented a video of the Armenian entry's performance airing on İTV which showed the Armenian entry and the voting number. The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has placed a 2,700 euro fine on the Azerbaijani broadcaster for blurring out the televote number for Armenia, a distortion of the television signal while the Armenian representatives were performing on stage and the fact that some Azerbaijani citizens were interrogated by the police after voting for their neighbouring country. The European Broadcasting Union is said to have threatened the country to exclude the broadcaster from the competition for up to three years if further infractions of the Eurovision Song Contest rules are made. The EBU has clearly stated that "the organization will not tolerate violations of the rules - particularly political interference in the Eurovision Song Contest".
Interrogation of voters
In August 2009 a number of Azerbaijanis who had voted for Armenia's entry during the contest were summoned for questioning at the Ministry of National Security in Baku, during which they were accused of being "unpatriotic" and "a potential security threat". One of those summoned, Rovshan Nasirli, said that he was told by his interrogators that they had the names and addresses of all 43 Azerbaijanis who had voted for Armenia. Executive head of the Eurovision contest, Svante Stockselius, announced the launch of an enquiry about the incident. In their response, İctimai TV stated that while two individuals had been invited to the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of National Security had given assurances that nobody had been questioned, either officially or unofficially, on voting in the competition itself. EBU Director General, Jean Réveillon, responded to this by saying that freedom to vote is one of the cornerstones of the contest and "Any breach of privacy regarding voting, or interrogation of individuals, is totally unacceptable".
Azerbaijani Minister of Youth and Sport, Azad Rahimov, denied that anyone had been summoned to the Ministry of National Security about voting for the Armenian entry, and accused RFE/RL and other news outlets of reporting the allegations to "make a scandal".
The Reference Group of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the song contest, examined the matter at a meeting in Oslo on 11 September 2009. In a statement issued on September 17, the EBU acknowledged that some Azerbaijanis who voted for the Armenian entry had been called to the National Security Ministry and condemned the breach in privacy of Azerbaijanis who had voted via mobile phone. Explaining that current rules put the obligation for protection of voters' privacy on the respective telecommunications companies, the EBU said it did not have the ability to penalise telephone companies, and Eurovision Song Contest rules would be amended so that in future it could impose sanctions against broadcasters by making a country's participating broadcaster liable "for any disclosure of information which could be used to identify voters". Banning a broadcaster would effectively stop a country from being able to take part.
Eurovision Song Contest 2012
The 2012 Contest was hosted by Azerbaijan after their win in 2011, and it was unknown whether Armenia would be allowed to participate since Azerbaijan bans the entry of Armenians to its territories due to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
A group of Armenian pop singers launched a campaign to boycott the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest being held in Baku after a 20-year-old Armenian soldier was shot dead on the border between the two countries. The performers said that anti-Armenian sentiment persists in Azerbaijan due to the long-lasting Karabakh conflict. The Armenian side initially blamed the soldier's death on an Azerbaijani sniper, however later the Armenian Ministry of Defense admitted that he was killed by a fellow Armenian soldier. The head of Armenia’s delegation to Eurovision has also claimed her country had not received any safety guarantees for its members. On 7 March 2012, Armenia announced that they would be withdrawing from the contest citing security reasons.
The EBU stated that it was "truly disappointed" with Armenia's withdrawal, and that "despite the efforts of the EBU and the Host Broadcaster to ensure a smooth participation for the Armenian delegation in this year's Contest, circumstances beyond our control lead to this unfortunate decision."
The General Director of İTV Ismayil Omarov expressed his regret about Armenia's withdrawal, and stated that "the performance of Armenia’s representative on Baku stage could be a joint peace message to the world".
The EBU fined the Armenian national broadcaster for the late withdrawal, charging it the regular participation fee plus an extra 50% of this amount. In addition, the Armenian state channel has been instructed to do an uninterrupted live broadcast of all three shows. Despite this, the Armenian commentators commentated over the first verse of "When the Music Dies".
Junior Eurovision Song Contest
On November 21, 2010, Vladimir Arzumanyan from Nagorno-Karabakh won the first place for Armenia in the 8th Junior Eurovision Song Contest held in Minsk. Armenian news reported from their own sources that Azerbaijani media interrupted the broadcast of the event as it became apparent that Armenia had won. However Tahir Mammadov, representative of Azerbaijan's public broadcaster ITV, claimed that due to Azerbaijan not participating in the contest, the channel did not broadcast the event at all.
On December 1, 2012, Armenia and Azerbaijan competed against each other for the first time in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, due to Azerbaijan making its debut in the competition.
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