Photo Gallery Baku's Image Problem

Azerbaijan will play host to this year's Eurovision Song Contest. In the run-up to Europe's largest television event, the authoritarian regime has launched a campaign to improve its image. German PR experts, lobbyists and politicians across the spectrum are playing a role in those efforts.
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Azerbaijan's leader, President Ilham Aliyev (right), is seen here with his wife Mehriban, in an archive photo. The country is currently seeking to burnish its image abroad and has been spending a lot of money to do so, hiring PR experts and lobbyists in Germany and other European countries.

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The act Ell and Nikki from Azerbaijan won the Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf, Germany, this year, which means that the world's largest non-sporting television event will be held in the capital city of Baku on May 26.

Foto: Sean Gallup/ Getty Images
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But the country has an image problem. Here, a policeman can be seen detaining an opposition activist in Baku on March 12. The former Soviet republic has a reputation for not being a stickler for human rights. Amnesty International accuses the regime of muting its critics. In Germany, where political luminaries recently attended an Azerbaijani independence celebration, some are asking why well-respected politicians would be needlessly helping an authoritarian regime gain more respectability?

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In the past, paid trips for politicians to travel to Baku (pictured here) have been offered. At least one trip included business-class seats, lodging in a luxury hotel, a gala dinner and a speech delivered by President Aliyev. Allowing this man's followers to pay for airplane trips and expensive hotels is a matter of sensitivity and tact.

Foto: dapd
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Graphic: Azerbaijan in Figures