BAKU, (AFP) - Azerbaijan took a Russian television station off the air late Thursday because it was showing Canadian director Atom Egoyan's film about the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Turkey's Ottoman rulers.
Azerbaijan, a close ally of Turkey that fought a war with neighboring Armenia in the early 1990s, refuses to recognize the pogroms as a genocide and said it did not want its citizens watching Egoyan's movie.
"This film contradicts our national interests and those of our friend, Turkey," Rajap Abdul Rahmanov, head of the Azerbaijan's state television authority said in an interview with the ANS TV station. "We cannot allow this film to be broadcast on the territory of our republic... While it is being broadcast it will be replaced with an Azeri film."
Egoyan's film "Ararat," which chronicles the deportations and killings of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in the dying days of the Ottoman empire, was being shown on Russia's state-owned RTR network. That network is rebroadcast to viewers inside Azerbaijan and is widely watched by the country's many Russian speakers. The RTR broadcasts resumed as normal once the film was over.
Egoyan's movie was screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year and stars French singer Charles Aznavour, an ethnic Armenian. It played to packed houses when it was premiered in Armenia's capital, Yerevan.
The director was born in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to Armenian refugee parents and moved to Canada in 1963. He also directed "Exotica" and "The Sweet Hereafter," winner of the 1997 Cannes Grand Jury Prix. He has said he wanted to make "Ararat" to remind the world of the horrors inflicted on the Ottoman Empire's Armenians, and to reflect "the ghosts which haunt Armenians" to this day.