Sunday, 27 May 2012

Eurovision, more than a song contest?

I like to think I'm funky, hip or at the very least, a little fresh. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that I hate Eurovision, all that it stands for and definitely do not watch it every year with subtitles so I can really understand what each country is trying to tell me.

But oh God, it is so good! Think about it, where would we be without ABBA? Or what cheesy party playlist is complete without Bucks Fizz 'Making your mind up' or musical birthday card without Cliff's 'Congratulations'. Furthermore, whilst politically explicit lyrics are actually banned from the contest, its history can almost be read as a politics history of Europe and international relations. Eurovision played a key role in the cultural battles of the Cold War as the western countries showed the Eastern Bloc how much better their music was, those who lived near the wall risked their jobs to watch the song contest in secret despite the poor quality of reception (as Russia attempted to block signal from Western television channels). If you're prepared to risk so much for something, surely it's justified by its importance? Arguably, Eurovision is important, it brings the whole of Europe together, it made everyone think about the children being killed in the Bosnia in 1993 and when it was held in Ireland in 1994 Riverdance was invented (seriously, who doesn't wish they could move their feet like that?).

This year it seemed like everyone was talking about the Russia's Grannys even more than they lusted over Germanys Lenas legs in 2010. Naturally England tried their best but didn't quite make the grade (here's looking at you Engelbert Humperdinck) and it was back to the Grannys. But there was something far more important going on behind the scenes of Eurovision 2012 that was easily forgotten masked by sequins and smoke machines.

Azerbaijan, it turns out, still thinks that 'prisoners of conscience' is an actual thing that can be justified and arrest people who protest against a government whose authorities intimidate, blackmail and attack journalists who reported the evictions whole neigbourhoods in order for the Eurovision stadium to be built at all.  Its press is classed as 'not free' and even it's internet access is only 'partially free' and it is yet to hold an election which can be described as wholly free and fair.

State-authorized violence, illegal evictions and political prisoners have, in my opinion, no place in the modern Europe. Morally, I felt like I was obliged to boycott the Eurovision song contest this year and for the first time, we did not all sit as a family and dance to Europop. It was an incredibly sad day I can assure you and I hope to never go without Eurovision again, but I think it's on a par with the sporting boycott of South Africa during the apartheid. Surely, by accepting Azerbaijan and letting it partake in such events and even letting it host them, but ignoring their human rights record, we're saying it's OK?

I don't think it's OK at all, do you?

If you agree with me and think we should stand up for what is right you can make your voice heard here.

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