--2 Propaganda On Demand
       
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US State Department

Propaganda On Demand

Bill Richardson, British Petroleum and the ongoing saga of Heydar Aliyev Day

July 14, 2010, 12:00 am
By Corey Pein
SFR's coverage of an authoritarian government's exploitation of willing Santa Fe politicians for propaganda purposes has attracted some attention.

Our original item—actually a follow-up to a post at Harper's Magazine—was republished by one of the few opposition newspapers in Azerbaijan, Azadliq (Freedom).

It should be noted, Azadliq is not publishing under comfortable circumstances.


2006:

"In early October, satirical journalist Mirza Sakit Zahidov, who had criticized President Ilham Aliyev [Heydar's son and successor] in columns published in the independent newspaper 'Azadliq,' was jailed for three years on drug charges that his colleagues and international media watchdogs denounced as fabricated."

The government's eviction of the paper from its offices that year led to a condemnation from the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

2007:

"The US State Department is deeply concerned by the 11 November conviction of Ganimat Zahid, editor-in-chief of the Azerbaijani newspaper Azadliq… On 11 November, the Yasamal District Court in Baku sentenced Zahid to a 2-month prison term for hooliganism and assault charges…

'These events suggest an alarming trend of deliberate pressure against the independent and pro-opposition media,' the [State Department] report says.

2008:

"Amnesty International is seriously concerned by the stabbing of Azadliq correspondent Agil Xalilov as he left the newspaper’s offices on 13 March in the early evening…Agil Xalilov believes that he was targeted on account of his investigative journalism publicizing the alleged involvement of state officials in illegal land transactions. Agil Xalilov was previously assaulted less than a month earlier…"

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be willing to meet with President Aliyev (the photo above is from earlier this month), but that doesn't mean she's glossing over his regime's behavior. For good measure, here are a few more examples of media suppression in Azerbaijan from 2009 and this year.

Not surprisingly, none of this gets mentioned by the Azerbaijani government's hired gun in the US, Jason Katz.

This week in SFR, Katz publishes his second letter to the editor criticizing my reporting. (He posted an identical message in the comments of this earlier post.) Katz mostly goes after straw men, but he also harps on my failure to get in touch with him before publication:

And as for the author’s initial claim that he tried to contact me but could not reach me, perhaps he should look at the emails he so proudly has 'revealed.'

On the last page of the email exchanges SFR published between Katz' company, Tool Shed Group, and Santa Fe City Hall, there is in fact a phone number and email for Katz' partner. Unfortunately, I didn't notice it there until after my print deadline had passed—and that was after spending hours trying to track down a working number for Katz, without success.

Katz' complaint is disingenuous. If he wanted to be easy to reach, perhaps he would throw up a website for his company. Or publicly list a phone number. Or disclose something beyond a street address in the paperwork for his registration as a foreign agent with the US Justice Department.

Instead, he complains that SFR didn't catch his office number, buried in documents obtained from the city of Santa Fe through an inspection of public records request, and provided to SFR by Azerbaijani-Americans for Democracy.

Here's that number, by the way:


In case the image doesn't load properly, the phone number for Tool Shed Group is (818) 992-7321.

Hopefully that's settled.

Also this week, AZAD passed along to SFR the results of another public records request, which it had filed with Gov. Bill Richardson's office.

These email exchanges show that Katz is right about another thing—it's entirely routine for lobbyists to have politicians sign off on their requests for official endorsement. As SFR's Zane Fischer wrote, however, just because a practice may be routine doesn't mean it's benign.

Here is Katz' May 7, 2009 request to Richardson's director of cabinet affairs, Oliver Allan. (Katz' contact information is rather more visible, here.)


Here is the May 19, 2009 proclamation signed by Richardson.


"I knew President Heydar Aliyev and had the opportunity to work with him to build the [BP-owned] BTC pipeline," it says.

Finally, here is an April 22, 2010 "birthday message" from Richardson commemorating the late Aliyev's birthday once again.


"He was the first leader of the modern post-Soviet Azerbaijan," the letter says. As SFR's past articles explained, that is one of the historical distortions that so bothers AZAD.

Read SFR's previous coverage here and here.



 

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