In Azerbaijan, following the blocking of opposition sites disliked by the authorities, the international traffic of WatsApp, Facebook and Skype has been closed
After several months of blocking access from the territory of Azerbaijan to the Internet-resources and electronic mass media, which are objectionable to the government, the court in Baku officially banned these sites on the territory of the country.
On August 7, 2015, the then Minister of Communications and High Technologies, Ali Abbasov, officially announced the intention to close or take under state control a number of foreign information resources in Azerbaijan. Then he talked about the need to licensing communication services for social and video networks Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp, promising that this will not entail changes for users. The minister suggested signing the relevant agreements between these companies and regulatory organizations in Azerbaijan.
However, as the agency notes, the Azerbaijani government could still legally ban Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp on the territory of the country.
At the same time it is recalled that before the announcement of Abbasov, in June 2015 the head of the Azerbaijani Press Council Aflatun Amashov, who called to block access to Facebook, began informational preparation. In July of the same year, the problems began reveil on WhatsApp application and a few days later on Skype. According to local media, the blockade was carried out by specialists of the Special State Protection Service of Azerbaijan.
“Three months after the scandalous promise of the minister to the department Ali Abbasov crashed into disaster. In November 2015, Ali Abbasov was fired, and his subordinates were arrested and charged with illegally tapping telephone conversations of residents and non-residents of Azerbaijan, followed by torture and blackmail of these people by other criminals, already from the former Ministry of National Security, ” – “Turan” news agency writes.
Thus, the press service of the ministry confirmed “Turan” about the intentions in 2015 of licensing Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp in Azerbaijan.
“However, there is reason to believe that the camouflaged license offer prohibits the use of Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp in Azerbaijan. The confidence in this was strengthened after the decision of the Sabail District Court of Baku on May 12 this year to block the websites of Azadlig newspaper and radio, the Azerbaijan Saata TV program and the Meidan TB media resource. A lawsuit was filed by e-Security Center under the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of Azerbaijan, “- reminiscent of the” Turan “.
In addition, in June 2016, President Ilham Aliyev approved the Law on Amendments to the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Telecommunications”. Article 33.1.3-1 reflects the duty to “ensure, on the basis of the subscriber’s request, the possibility of safe use of information resources to protect children from information that is harmful to their health and development”.
“In addition to the internal political reasons for the closure (or government control) of foreign social networks and Internet communications, which consist in the eternal fear of the authorities over the color revolutions that flourish in social networks, there is an economic reason for the government’s intention. Advisor to the Minister of Communications and High Technologies, Mushvig Amirov, said that these companies receive big profits in Azerbaijan, so the issue of taxing them will be discussed. And the search for new sources of taxation in the time of crisis is the task of the government, ” – the agency continues.
Telecommunications expert Osman Gyunduz explained in response that the application of taxation could negatively affect the activities of Skype, Facebook and WhatsApp in Azerbaijan.
“But, despite the cheerful promise of the press service about the lack of intent to block social networks,” the process still went. ” First, as with the ban on five sites, the signalmen act in silence, “Turan writes, and stresses that the country’s citizens have previously reported that voice calls abroad by WatsApp, Facebook and Skype are no longer working.
Director of the Media Rights Protection Center Rashid Hajili believes that the government can pursue several tasks while blocking voice and video messengers. WhatsApp and Skype might be forsed to give access to government for tracking user contacts and activities.
The expert also considers the unspoken decision taken by the Ministry of Communications as unpromising, since the updated technologies will always offer the people new telecommunication opportunities.
Osman Gunduz confirmed “Turan” that for several days the international traffic of WhatsApp and Skype has been closed.
“Unfortunately, the ministry does not give explanations, but since the ministry of transport, communications and high technologies remains the regulatory organization , it is obvious that mobile operators and a backbone provider can not take such a decision without the permission of this agency. Our monitoring showed that the ban on foreign communication is carried out by these companies, ” – Gunduz said.
He admits that the decision was made in connection with the holding of international competitions in Azerbaijan to prevent terrorists from communicating with each other. “It may be decided to close the resources also to prevent overloading of Internet traffic during the competitions in Baku. In this process, there are interested economic sides, since it is not a secret that international communication, implemented through messengers, hits the revenues of mobile operators. But the ban on the use of messengers rudely violates the right of citizens to freely receive information. On the other hand, such a ban does damage to the international image of Azerbaijan and future profits of Azerbaijan Regional Data Center and the company Delta Telekom, which would ensure the inflow of foreign currency into Azerbaijan” – Gunduz said.
But, as noted in the material, the Ministry of Communications believes otherwise – the precepts of Ali Abbasov are not forgotten, and the process of blocking successfully continues.
Recall that earlier the site “VirtualRoad.org” conducted monitoring of artificial problems created for several specific Internet sites in Azerbaijan – sites of the newspaper Azadlig, Radio Liberty and Voice of America. It was found out that in Azerbaijan against the given sites so called “network traffic jams” obstacles were created. In a simple language, this is called blocking the site, because at this time the access to the site is greatly complicated. The entrance to these sites, from other parts of the world, was carried out without any difficulties. Investigations of the VirtualRoad website also indicate that artificial blocks are created on certain days and at certain times of the day.
We also add that according to the annual report of the international human rights organization Freedom House “Freedom on the Net 2016”, Azerbaijan was among the countries with partially free Internet, while Armenia was placed in the list of countries with free Internet. In particular, it was reported that the situation with Internet freedom in Azerbaijan has significantly worsened over the past year, and the most active Internet users, as well as members of their families, are often attacked and intimidated.
International human rights activists noted that the country’s government often blocks “undesirable” sites, especially during important events. In general, the authorities prefer to use pressure and threats in order to “clean” the Internet space. As a result of such a policy, the pages in social networks were closed, which contained political satire and critical materials about the regime of President Ilham Aliyev.
It was acknowledged that the continued repression of the opposition media significantly limited freedom of speech in Azerbaijan. Some journalists, commentators and just Internet users began to resort to self-censorship, especially when they were hired by pro-government organizations.
In addition, Azerbaijani authorities continue to harass and arrest journalists and active Internet users, thus suppressing dissent and imprisoning critics on false charges.