The Listening Post

Azerbaijan and the European Games: Did the PR pay off?

As the Baku games close, we examine the challenges facing journalists; plus, Angola, Portugal and ‘reverse colonialism’.

Hosting the 2015 European Games has reportedly cost Azerbaijan in the region of $1.2bn, and for President Ilham Aliyev it appears to be oil money well spent. But along with the athletes and the countries they represent, journalists have also arrived in Baku, and the Aliyev government has a poor track record when it comes to dealing with the media.

Some foreign reporters have been refused entry into the country and on the domestic level, Azerbaijani journalists who do not tow the government’s line when reporting on issues like corruption and human rights have landed up in jail.

As the European Games come to a close this weekend in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, we examine how the government’s public relations efforts have paid off in the media coverage.

Joining us to talk about the Baku games and the media are: Aflatun Amashov, the chairman of Azerbaijan Press Council; Robin Forestier-Walker, an Al Jazeera correspondent; Rahim Haciyev, the deputy editor at Azadliq; and Kenan Aliyev, the executive editor of “Current Time,” Radio Free Europe and Voice of America.

Other media stories on our radar this week: Saudi Arabia has warned its citizens to ignore a trove of secret documents released by Wikileaks; an Al Jazeera journalist detained in Germany at the request of Egyptian authorities has been released; and America’s largest newspaper publisher, Gannett, says “everything is awesome” despite job losses and budget cuts.

Angola, Portugal and reverse colonialism in the media

Our feature story this week is on Angola and the oil money that is buying up media in Portugal. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been the leader of Angola for more than three decades and in that time he has reigned in the country’s media under his control.

To get uncensored coverage about the country, many Angolans turn to news outlets in Portugal, their former colonial ruler. However, Angolan oil wealth has been filtering back into Portugal and is buying up news outlets in the country.

The “reverse colonisation” as it is being called is affecting the way that Angola is covered by the Portuguese media. The Listening Post’s Gouri Sharma reports on Angola’s news media at home and abroad.

While Azerbaijan has not been able to control the message in the international media at least it knows it can rely on some domestic channels to tell the story its way. We close the show with a clip from the government-funded channel AzerTac which was the main provider of photographs and footage from the Games. It is a music video montage depicting Baku 2015’s mascots Jeyran and Nar – a gazelle and a pomegranate – cavorting around the capital, guiding tourists, and even posing for selfies.