During a press conference after the Semi-final of the Eurovision song contest, a Reuters journalist touched on a sensitive issue asking Swedish candidate Loreen a question regarding a meeting she had with representatives of the opposition.
"We know you had a meeting with representatives of the opposition. What is your impression after this meeting? And what made you go and see them?" the Reuters journalist asked.
Before the singer was given the chance to reply, a moderator intervened and kindly asked journalists to keep the questions to the candidates "relevant to the audience" adding that the Eurovision was a joyful event, thus implying that political questions should not be asked.
Even more striking than the intervention of the moderator was the translation provided by Azerbaijani Public TV's interpretor who completely adapted the question and changed it to: "She is asking Loreen what she felt after her performance."
Azerbaijan is hosting this year's Eurovision contest in a tense climate with on the one hand rights groups and opposition groups criticizing the decision to have the song contest in a country where people face violence and persecution for exercising their right to free speech and on the other hand a government who is trying to showcase Azerbaijan as a modern and sophisticated country that merits genuine partnership with Europe.
The opposition staged several protests throughout the week leading up to the Eurovision final which will take place tomorrow. 30 to 35 activists were arrested on Thursday as they tried to stage a protest outside the ex-Soviet state’s public television station, which is the Azerbaijani partner for Eurovision broadcasts. Azerbaijan authorities also arrested several protesters on Monday during a rally attended by members of the Public Chamber opposition movement, as well as NGOs and individuals in the opposition. They demonstrated in support of political prisoners who they say have been illegally arrested or convicted and therefore should be released.