The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Media Watch program has shone necessary light on the Consulate of Azerbaijan in Western Australia paying for a reporter to write a glossy feature on their petro-dictatorship, in which Baku is lavished with unrecognisable praise for its apparent similarities to Perth, among other outlandish claims.
During its December 4 program, Media Watch host Paul Barry described the article published by The West Australian as “puff … about a trade mission to a celebrated Central Asian dictatorship”.
“Haven’t heard of the affair between WA and Azerbaijan? Nor had we, until the West devoted a three-page spread to the exciting news, telling us: ‘there are some striking similarities between Perth and Baku. Both are secular, well-educated societies with a love for good food and wine and a quirky appreciation of Eurovision.
And, of course, they’re both freedom-loving democracies. Although, bizarrely, in 2013 Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev was so popular that he was voted in for a third term before the polls even opened. And so popular that, two years later, the major opposition parties didn’t even bother showing up, with the BBC noting: ‘In the past two years the Azeri authorities have jailed almost all critical voices, among them journalists, civil society activists, and human rights lawyers,” Barry said.
The host also touched upon this year’s scandal about the Azerbaijani Laundromat.
“Now, we’re not suggesting that The West Australian has had millions of dollars pumped through its bank accounts, but accepting free flights and hotels from a corrupt country that locks up journalists, and then ignoring or downplaying the country’s problems, is not a good look,” he remarked.
The Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU) has written to The West Australian, strongly criticising their disregard for their role serving as Australia’s Fourth Estate.
“Azerbaijan not only breaks international norms of decency, it also disregards the OSCE Minsk Group’s negotiated ceasefire with the Armenians of the Armenian Republic of Artsakh, killing soldiers and civilians with condemnable regularity,” said ANC-AU Managing Director, Vache Kahramanian.