Press release: Eurovision: A pretty face cannot hide the ugly reality

24 May 2012
As Europe celebrates the annual Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan, several musicians from the country have gone into exile.

In a video interview with Freemuse, Azer Cirttan talks about censorship, fear and Eurovision from his exile in Holland. He feels that anything can happen to anyone who is as loudly outspoken as he is in some of his songs.

Another artist, rapper and guitarist Jamal Ali fled his home country on 16 May 2012. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Jamal told that police tortured him for two days, placing a bag on his head and beating him with a truncheon, after he and his bassist were detained after a performance at an anti-government rally in March.

These are examples of the ugly realities behind the image of happy, smiling people and postmodern architecture, which Azerbaijan presents to the hundreds of millions tv viewers.

Should Eurovision be stopped?
Several activists have called for an international boycott of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan over concerns about the country’s poor human rights record and clampdowns on dissidents.

The Eurovision Song Contest is produced under the auspices of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The EBU has come under fierce criticism for not using the Eurovision occasion to confront Azerbaijan on its human rights record. This is seen as a setback for artists, journalists and others in Azerbaijan standing up for freedom of speech.

– The human rights situation is extremely severe in the host country, but Freemuse does not advocate cultural boycotts as such. Their effects are doubtful and can even have negative effects for those artists’ who represent important oppositional voices. EBU certainly could have made more ‘noise’, however the Eurovision event has led to an increased focus on the situation for artists’ rights to freedom of expression, says Ole Reitov, Freemuse Programme Manager.

– We hope the media and international human rights organisations will continue to monitor the violations of musicians and other artists’ rights to freedom of expression in Azerbaijan when the spotlights in Baku fades. Freemuse certainly will continue documenting this… even on Monday.

For further information / interview:
Call Freemuse Programme Manager Ole Reitov, phone: +45 2323 2765


Freemuse is an independent international organisation which advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. The organisation’s home page,, is the world’s largest knowledge base on music censorship. For more information about Freemuse, its activities and publications, see
FREEMUSE – Freedom of Musical Expression
Nytorv 17, 3rd floor, DK-1450 Copenhagen K, Denmark
Tel: +45 3332 1027



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Related music

Jamal Ali’s new song and music video ‘Vermisel’


Audio: MP3 file of the song Vermişel – for download


Published 16 May 2012 on YouTube:
After just one week this video had been seen by more than 30,000 viewers.
1:38 in the video, the lyrics of the song go:

“I was beaten for what I said
Shoved into the police car
They showed on AZTV [1st governmental channel] and called us bandits
What? Am I not right?
My house is demolished
I’m homeless, no roof over my head
Is Eurovision what I need now?”

Related documentation

Jamal Ali:
Rock musician flees to Germany over concerns for his safety

Azer Cirttan:
Interview (text and video) with exiled singer and composer Azer Cirttan from Azerbaijan

Freemuse articles and seminars on cultural boycott:

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