LONDON (Opendemocracy.net) — The BBC has been accused of “whitewashing” the Azerbaijani dictatorship after broadcasting a film made with the support of the country’s controversial ruling family — and sponsored by UK oil and gas giant BP.
Audiences tuning into BBC World News in August were promised that they would discover “how Azerbaijan’s oil wealth enabled the capital Baku to flourish” and “gain the reputation of being the “Paris of the East” in the BP-sponsored “Wonders of Azerbaijan” film.
BP spent £300,000 ($356,000) on the film, which was made by UK production company SandStone Global with support from a foundation and a media center run by members of Azerbaijan’s ruling Aliyev family. Broadcaster and historian Bettany Hughes, who co-founded SandStone, presented the film.
Emin Huseynov, an Azerbaijani journalist who fled political persecution in Azerbaijan in 2015, accused the BBC of “whitewashing a dictatorship” over the film.
Husyenov, who was the subject of an award-winning 2006 BBC documentary which followed pro-democracy youth activists in Azerbaijan, told openDemocracy that the BBC had undergone “a shameful transformation and given the floor to one of the bloodiest and most corrupt regimes in the world.”
He also accused the BBC of being “passive” in its coverage of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and questioned the lack of scrutiny over BP’s ties to the Aliyev regime.