ALMATY (Reuters) - British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen would have never chosen Kazakhstan for his jokes if the country was free of corruption and human rights abuses, a leading opposition politician said on Tuesday.
Cohen has angered the Kazakh government with the portrayal of his fictional Kazakh television reporter Borat and his misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic views. His new film, “Borat,” opens across North America on Friday.
Cohen’s jokes have become a public relations headache for Kazakhstan as the former Soviet country seeks to position itself as a modern nation of well-educated professionals and a major non-OPEC oil exporter.
But Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, a Kazakh opposition leader, said it was only natural that Cohen should ridicule his country.
“Instead of fighting Borat we should look at other circumstances that have harmed our country’s image,” he told the zonakz.net liberal news Web site.
“If human rights and freedoms were not being violated, if Kazakhstan did not become famous for its corruption scandals around the world, then Sacha Cohen would’ve chosen some other country for his jokes.”
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been criticized by opponents for cracking down on civil liberties, freedom of speech and not doing enough to fight corruption in his oil-rich country.
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