Conveniently ahead of presidential elections...
*via Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders and the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), an Azerbaijani NGO that defends the rights of journalists, wrote to communications and information technology minister Ali Abbasov today asking him to explain the responsibilities of a state agency he plans to create to oversee Internet security.
Abbasov told the Azerbaijan Press Agency (APA) on 19 July that he wanted to set up an agency to supervise the Internet in Azerbaijan and prevent cyber-crimes.
“This plan poses a potential threat to online free speech as its duties are very vague,” the two organisations said. “By monitoring the Internet, the authorities will be able to track down those who criticise the government. Defamation lawsuits are already the preferred method of censorship in Azerbaijan, with the independent and opposition media being constantly harassed by the government.”
The two organisations added: “We therefore call on the minister to provide details about this planned agency and about the guarantees that he will give regarding respect for online freedom of expression.”
Most of Azerbaijan’s Internet Service Providers cannot use their own satellite network to access the Internet and must submit to state control. The communications ministry offers its own Internet access service through Bakinternet (www.bakinter.net).
Three journalists are currently in prison in Azerbaijan, serving sentences ranging from two and a half years to four years in prison. They are Eynulla Fatullaev, the editor of the dailies Realny Azerbaijan and Gundalik Azerbaijan, Ganimat Zahidov, the editor of the opposition daily Azadlig, and his older brother Sakit Zahidov, a contributor to the newspaper.
Ganimat Zahidov was given a four-year sentence by a Baku court on 7 March on charges of “aggravated hooliganism” and assault and battery.” Hearings in his appeal began on 7 May.IRFS also considers Bizim Yol Newspaper journalist Mushfig Huseynov, who was arrested for taking a bribe, to be wrongfully imprisoned.
More information about the press freedom situation in Azerbaijan
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