F1 to take place in Azerbaijan this weekend where human rights are seriously restricted
It’s called ‘sportswash’ and it is the present day attempt by tyrannical regimes to get themselves some positive publicity by hosting a sporting event, in this case, motor racing. And they do not seem to have any difficulty in persuading sponsors, drivers and others involved to come to their country and lend support to the host however poorly they behave.
Bernie Ecclestone, when questioned about the dismal human rights record in Azerbaijan said:
The moment someone tells me that human rights are, then we can have a look at it, and see when and where it applies. (Source – Daily Mail)
One could mention the UN Declaration or the European Convention on Human Rights as a starting point but one gets the impression there wouldn’t be much interest.
But Kerry Moscogiuri, director of campaigns at Amnesty International UK, said:
The arrival of Formula One in Baku must not steer attention away from the Azerbaijani authorities’ human rights crackdown.
Behind the glitz the authorities are locking up their critics, have shut down NGOs and arrested or harassed their leaders. The recent release of some of those jailed on trumped-up charges should not fool anyone into thinking that the wind in Baku is blowing in a different direction.
Azerbaijan has courted big international sports events to improve its image abroad and the Grand Prix is no different. While the world’s fastest drivers take to the streets of Baku in this spectacle of speed, there are many who will not be able to enjoy the show.
F1 is in pole position to influence positive change in Azerbaijan. We would like to see them publicly urge President Aliyev to end this crackdown and free all prisoners of conscience.
Rebecca Vincent of Sport for Rights commented:
Bernie Ecclestone’s attitude to human rights is an embarrassment for Formula One. The Sport For Rights coalition has repeatedly raised the cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan with those in the F1 world, without anything resembling a sufficient response. The sport and its sponsors should be ashamed to allow themselves to be used as a propaganda tool for repressive governments such as President Aliyev’s.
They also claim that media outlets critical of Aliyev’s government have been harassed and intimidated and subsequently forced to close, while four journalists have also died in custody since 2005, according to Sport for Rights.
It all seems a long way from the Greek idea which informed their philosophy behind the idea of athletics and sporting prowess. This philosophy was that the success of a democratic government depended on the moral character of the citizenry and sport was part of that philosophy. This was a large part of the motivation for the combined athletic/moral training. Now that sport is a business it only seems to matter who can pay the most. Sport is now part of the apparatus of repression rather that something which uplifts the soul. Thus any regime which oppresses its citizens and ignores human rights can host a football tournament, motor racing event or some other sporting attraction at will. The people who take part in these events seem unconcerned at the misery which surrounds them and they are guaranteed uncritical coverage of their exploits in the media.