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Helsinki Commission Appeals to Azerbaijan to Keep VOA

The heads of a government body monitoring European human rights says it is concerned about Azerbaijan's plans to cut off all foreign broadcasts, including the Voice of America.

Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland lead the independent Helsinki Commission.

They said in a letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that more Azerbaijanis have access to radios than the Internet and satellite television.

The congressmen said it would be a great loss to the population if it can no longer hear VOA, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcasts.

The letter calls these programs impartial and innovative and says Azerbaijanis need them to stay informed and competitive.

Baku says a long-standing law bans local stations from broadcasting foreign programs. It says all such broadcasts will stop on January 1.

But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer said, after talks last week with Mr. Aliyev that, he is optimistic the programs will continue.