The law applied to blogs and online news sites and non-compliance would draw a fine of up to A$1,250 (US$1,230). Following a public outcry, the state’s attorney general and premier agreed to repeal the law.53 Regarding mobile-phone users, verified identification information is required to purchase any prepaid mobile service. Additional personal information is required for the service provider before a phone may be activated. All purchase information is stored while the service remains activated, and it may be accessed by law enforcement and emergency agencies providing there is a valid warrant.Users of social-networking sites and similar applications have been threatened with physical violence and extralegal intimidation by other users, though not by state authorities.
For example, a number of pages were established to memorialize Trinity Bates, a young girl who was abducted and brutally murdered in February 2010, and to call for violence against the accused killer. These sites were defaced by anonymous users who uploaded child pornography, and online and offline threats were then made against the suspected vandals.There have been a number of politically motivated cyberattacks, more specifically known as denial-of-service attacks (DoS) which have led to websites being inaccessible or flooded with substituted content for various lengths of time. The most well known attack is commonly referred to as Operation Titstorm. In February 2010, an internet group of activists known as Anonymous launched a DoS attack against the Australian Parliament House website in protest of the proposed internet filter.56 The attack brought down Parliament’s website for three days by bombarding it with pornographic images. It is unknown whether the Australian authorities have taken any measures to address politically Asher Moses, “Web Snooping Policy Shrouded in Secrecy,” The Age, June 17, 2010, http://www.theage.com.au/technology/technology-news/web-snooping-policy-shrouded-in-secrecy-20100617-yi1u.html.
Nate Anderson, “Internet Uprising Overturns Australian Censorship Law,” Ars Technica, February 2, 2010, http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/02/internet-uprising-overturns-australian-censorship-law.ars; “South Australian Government Gags Internet Debate,” News.com.au, February 2, 2010, http://www.news.com.au/technology/south-australian-state-government-gags-internet-debate/story-e6frfro01225825750956.
ACMA, “Pre-paid Mobile Services—Consumer Information Provision Fact Sheet,” http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_9079, accessed June 2010.
Emily Bourke and Kerrin Binnie, “Trinity Murder Inflames Facebook Debate,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), February 25, 2010, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/25/2829635.htm.
David Kravets, “Anonymous Unfurls ‘Operation Titstorm’,” Wired Magazine, February 10, 2010, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/02/anonymous-unfurls-operation-titstorm/#.
AUSTRALIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net motivated DoS attacks.57 More severe cyber attacks such as on the nation’s critical infrastructure (such as electric grids, hospitals, banks) have occurred as well, though, to date, these have mostly been attacks on banking infrastructure for financial motives. Websites typically cannot take preventative measures to ensure that they are not subject to a denial of service attack. Measures may only be taken once an attack has commenced to mitigate against damages.
AusCERT Conference (2009), closed session invite only workshop on cybercrime, Chatham House Rules.
AUSTRALIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net AZERBAIJAN 2009 POPULATION: 9.1 million INTERNET FREEDOM n/a Partly INTERNET PENETRATION 2009: 27 percent STATUS Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: No Obstacles to Access n/a SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: No Limits on Content n/a BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: Yes Violations of User Rights n/a PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Not Free Total n/a INTRODUCTION As Azerbaijan’s internet usage has exploded in recent years, the authorities have attempted to exercise greater control over the medium, though it remains much less restricted than print and broadcast media, which are the main sources of news for most citizens. In early 2010, the government expressed its intent to require internet-service providers (ISPs) to obtain licenses and sign formal agreements with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, although those plans seem to have been put on hold.1 There have sporadically been blocks imposed on certain websites and some officials have also called for the licensing of websites, including online news outlets. The authorities have used the criminal justice system to limit online expression, and two bloggers were imprisoned in 2009; the pair was released in November 2010 following an international campaign on their behalf.
The first e-mail message in Azerbaijan was sent in 1991 at the Institute of Information Technologies (Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences), and the first internet connections were established in 1994. However, open access for all citizens was made available only in 1996. The government began implementing policies aimed at lowering prices in 2007, and the internet is now somewhat more accessible for businesses and certain segments of the population.2 However, despite the notable increase in internet penetration, quality remains “Lisenziya: ixi Yolu, Ya Thlk” Media Forum, April 16, 2010, http://www.mediaforum.az/articles.phparticle_id=20100416110158693&lang=az&page=04.
“Beynlxalq Telekommunikasiya ttifaq: Azrbaycan mobil rabit tariflrinin azaldlmas zr lider-lkdir” APA, February 24, 2010, http://az.apa.az/news.phpid=178885.
AZERBAIJAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net low, as most people still use slow dial-up connections. The first license for third-generation (3G) mobile telephony was issued in mid-2009 to Vodafone-Azerfon, but prices for highspeed mobile internet are still very high.
OBSTACLES TO ACCESS According to the International Telecommunication Union, 27 percent of the population had access to the internet in 2010, a significant increase from 2008, when the penetration rate was roughly 14 percent.3 However, only 12 percent of Azerbaijanis own a computer. Many people use computers at work, school, or internet cafes, which are particularly popular in smaller towns and less affluent areas.
High cost remains a key obstacle to access, although other factors—such as education, lack of computer literacy, socioeconomic status, and gender—also play a role.
Average monthly prices range from 20 to 50 Azerbaijani manats (US$25 to US$62) for unlimited access at 1 Mbps speed via ADSL broadband technology.4 While these prices are significantly lower than several years ago, they are still out of reach for many Azerbaijanis;
the average monthly salary is estimated to be 304 manats (US$378).5 Consequently, only 5.9 percent of the population have fixed internet subscriptions, and just over 1.1 percent subscribe to broadband access.6 Moreover, ADSL users typically must pay for their own modems, which start at US$25. According to official statistics, 90 percent of internet subscribers use dial-up connections with speeds of no more than 56 Kbps, particularly those living outside of Baku.7 Among different demographic groups, young, urban men are most likely to have access to the internet.
Access to advanced web applications like the social-networking site Facebook and the microblogging service Twitter is not restricted. In fact, social-networking sites are routinely used to disseminate content that is critical of the government. The number of registered Facebook users has grown from approximately 105,000 at the beginning of 2010 to over 279,000 as of the end of December.8 Because most users access the internet at painfully slow dial-up speeds, they have significant difficulties accessing material on some websites, especially photos, audio and video recordings, and streaming audiovisual content.
International Telecommunication Union (ITU), “ICT Statistics 2009—Internet,” http://www.itu.int/ITUD/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx, accessed February 16, 2011.
“Internet Prices in Azerbaijan Equal to Other Countries of Region,” ABC.az, April 14, 2010, http://abc.az/eng/news_14_04_2010_44154.html.
Nijat Mustafayev, “Average Salary Rises 4% in Azerbaijan During January–March,” Azeri-Press Agency (APA), April 20, 2010, http://en.apa.az/news.phpid=120385.
International Telecommunication Union, “ICT Statistics 2009—Internet,” http://www.itu.int/ITUD/icteye/Indicators/Indicators.aspx#, accessed August 1, 2010.
“Azrbaycanda 3,7 milyon internet istifadisi var Azadliq, July 4, 2010, http://azadliq.info/cemiyyet/1982.html.
Facebakers, “Facebook Statistics Azerbaijan,” http://www.facebakers.com/countries-with-facebook/AZ/, accessed January 1, AZERBAIJAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Delta Telecom is the main ISP and serves as the backbone for the country’s 30 retaillevel ISPs, but the company’s ownership structure is not transparent. The largest ISP operating outside of Baku is the state-owned Aztelecom. Another company, Azertelecom, is currently working to create its own fiber-optic network, and in the future it could be a major competitor for Delta Telecom’s business.
Usage of mobile phones in Azerbaijan has been growing steadily. In 2009, there were nearly 88 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.9 There are three mobile-service providers using the globally dominant GSM standard: Azercell, Azerfon, and Bakcell.
Another company, Catel, uses the alternative CDMA standard. In 2009, Azerfon, in a partnership with Britain’s Vodafone, became the only company to obtain a license for 3G service. The use of the internet through mobile phones has so far been limited, due in part to the high cost of subscriptions.
Azerbaijan does not have an independent regulatory body for the telecommunications sector. Currently, the basic regulatory functions are performed by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology pursuant to the 2005 Law on Telecommunications. Internet domain names in Azerbaijan cannot be obtained online and require an in-person application, subjecting the process to bureaucratic red tape and possible corruption.
LIMITS ON CONTENT The Azerbaijani government does not engage in widespread censorship of the internet.
However, domestic observers reported that on several occasions during 2009, the government temporarily blocked public access to websites that were popular for lampooning the president. There were reportedly greater restrictions on the internet in the autonomous exclave of Nakhchivan, where residents claimed they were unable to view the websites of the opposition newspapers Azadliq and Bizim Yol. Access has also been denied to the website of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani service, www.azadliq.org.
Each episode of blocking lasted only a few days. In 2009, just before municipal elections, authorities also blocked public access to two websites of an independent nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Election Monitoring Center, although the sites remained accessible from abroad. Since the government does not officially admit to blocking websites, there is no established process through which affected entities can appeal.
There has been an incredible growth in blogging since 2007. Thanks to the introduction of Azerbaijani-language blogging platforms, a new generation of bloggers has appeared and started writing on issues that have never been covered by traditional media.
International Telecommunication Union, “ICT Statistics 2009—Mobile Cellular Subscriptions,” http://www.itu.int/ITUD/icteye/Indicators/Indicators.aspx#, accessed August 1, 2010.
AZERBAIJAN FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net There are about 27,000 blogs in Azerbaijan, most of which are written in the Azerbaijani language. Only 1,000 blogs are written in English, Russian, and other languages. Many bloggers, such as Ali Novruzov, Arzu Geybulla, and Ilgar Mammadov, are well known for their independent views.
Youth are the most active bloggers in Azerbaijan, and have encountered the first censorship efforts associated with blogging. Two activists from the OL! and AN youth movements, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, were arrested in 2009. They were convicted on dubious charges of hooliganism, having been attacked by two men at a restaurant in what was apparently a government-organized provocation, but the real reason for their arrest is thought to be their posting of a satirical piece on the video-sharing site YouTube. The video mocked the government’s reported decision to import donkeys at exorbitant prices, suggesting that donkeys are treated better than ordinary people in Azerbaijan.10 Internet campaigns calling for the two men’s release were blocked several times by the authorities.
The pair was released in November 2010 following international and domestic pressure for their release,11 but they remain prohibited from leaving the country. While traditional media journalists practice extensive self-censorship, expression in the online sphere has been freer, though the two bloggers’ arrest had a chilling effect on other internet users.
Youth activists, organizations, and movements are widely represented in social media. They provide information, organize activities and events, and arrange flash mobs via the internet. Opposition parties, traditional NGOs, and state organizations started to use these tools in advance of the November 2010 elections, but their efforts are still very weak.
Although many Baku-based candidates used the internet for campaigning, the use of such methods in other regions was seen as less effective.
VIOLATIONS OF USER RIGHTS Article 47 of the constitution guarantees freedom of thought and speech.12 In addition, Article 50 stipulates that everyone has the right to distribute information, that freedom of the mass media is guaranteed, and that censorship is prohibited. In practice, however, the authorities aggressively use various forms of legislation to stifle freedom in the print and broadcast media. Libel is a criminal offense and traditional media journalists who criticize the authorities are frequently prosecuted and imprisoned. The judiciary is largely The video is available at http://www.youtube.com/watchv=Aaecvg7xCIk.