28 Dec

Why the pardon?

Mixed reaction to Azeri leader’s pardon decree
BBC Monitoring International Reports – Friday, December 28, 2012
Azerbaijani human rights activists have displayed a mixed reaction to the 26 December pardoning decree of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

The president pardoned 87 people, including two prisoners of conscience and 11 political prisoners according to the lists of local human rights activists and the report of Christoph Strasser, rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Turan reported on 26 December.

Leyla Yunus, director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy, told Turan on 27 December that this happened in the lead to discussions during the PACE winter session of Strasser’s report on political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

“Now the authorities can say that steps have been taken to resolve the problem, although they deny the very existence of the problem of political prisoners,” Leyla Yunus said.

The human rights activist said that the problem remains unresolved and 54 political prisoners remain in jail. She pointed out that most of the pardoned political prisoners already did the vast majority of their sentences.

This is the first such decree that released as many as 14 political prisoners, Leyla Yunus added. “Nevertheless, it is a positive event that the Azerbaijani authorities released 14 political prisoners at once. This is without a precedent in Azerbaijan, because earlier not more than five or seven political prisoners were released,” the rights activist said.

Leyla Yunus added that there are also new alarming tendencies with unjustified delays in trials. The trial of human rights activist Baxtiyar Mammadov, who protected the rights of the residents whose houses were demolished near the State Flag Square, began in April, and the trial of the editor-in-chief of the Xural newspaper, Avaz Zeynalli, began in May.

Meanwhile, the monitoring group of the Azerbaijani human rights organizations said that the presidential decree is an important step towards resolving the issue of political prisoners, Turan reported in another report on 27 December.

“We believe that this will be duly assessed during the PACE January session, where two reports on Azerbaijan will be on the agenda,” Saida Qocamanli, head of the Bureau for Human Rights and Legal Compliance, told Turan. She pointed out that among those pardoned are 14 people named in Strasser’s report. Qocamanli also said that 18 political activists and journalists from Strasser’s report were released ahead of time earlier.

The list includes 85 people, but only 48 of them remain in jail. For some of them the trial has not been completed or they have yet to be tried, Turan reported.

“We very much hope that before Azerbaijan presides over the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2014 the problem of political prisoners will be closed,” Qocamanli said.

18 Dec

Will be at Stanford in January

I’ll be giving a talk at Stanford’s Liberation Technology Center in January.

Link here

Not Free to Be You and Me: Equivocation and Internet Freedom in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has a unique approach to Internet regulation that represents a ‘middle path’ between open access and censorship. Because the Internet is both unpredictable and a prime venue of unsanctioned content, it threatens what the Azerbaijani government values most: power through consistency, consistency through power.

There are three generations of Internet control that a government can use. The first generation is widespread filtering and direct censorship. Second generation controls manipulate regulations on acceptable content and change the “use of defamation, slander, and ‘veracity’ laws, to deter bloggers and independent media from posting material critical of the government or specific government officials, however benignly (including humor)”. The third generation competes with Internet freedom “through effective counter information campaigns that overwhelm, discredit or demoralize opponents”.

While Azerbaijan does little first generation control (although it has sporadically filtered opposition news sources, especially before elections), it instead discourages technology use in three ways: media framing (third generation), monitoring (third generation) and arrests (second and third generation). Together these have created psychological barriers that impacts Azerbaijani technology use.

Despite this, the Azerbaijani government repeatedly claims that “there is Internet freedom in Azerbaijan.” By electing to define Internet freedom in the strictest sense of the word, the government uses a semantic shift to deflect criticism.

A mixed-methods nationally representative study of Azerbaijani Internet use will demonstrate the detrimental effect Azerbaijani government efforts to dissuade Internet use has on Internet use and free expression.

17 Dec

This Week in Absurdistan.az…

Lots of attacks on the Freedom House report

Azerbaijani Council of State Support to NGOs disagrees with report of Freedom House
Azeri-Press News Agency ( Azerbaijan ) – Monday, December 17, 2012
The Council of State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan objected to the inclusion of Azerbaijan into the list of “non-free” countries by the Freedom House. The Council issued a statement saying that the Freedom House has once more demonstrated its commitment to double games of the Western circles: “Including Armenia, which is used as an instrument of aggression against regional states by some forces of the world, into the list of “partly free” countries the Freedom House demonstrates its purposes clearly.

The report covering absurd ideas on the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, restriction of the use of Internet , arrest of bloggers, intolerance of the situation in prisons and tortures against prisoners in Azerbaijan made by the organization trying to create a negative image of our country in the world does not differ from the accusations of some pro-Armenian deputies having hostile approach to Azerbaijan . They continue to stand for their political and economic interests rather than human rights in Azerbaijan . Otherwise, attention would have been paid to the main problem of the country, occupation of 20 per cent of territories by Armenians and more than one million refugees.


Azerbaijani top official: Freedom House report is based on subjective judgments
Trend News Agency (Baku, Azerbaijan ) – Thursday, December 13, 2012
Author: E. Mehdiyev, Trend News Agency, Baku, Azerbaijan
Dec. 13–Head of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration’s Social and Political Department Ali Hasanov assessed annual report of Freedom House on the situation with human rights in the world as a report of the NGO prepared on the basis of subjective judgments.

If an independent country criterion for Freedom House is an observant position of law enforcement agencies towards attempts of a group of irresponsible persons to hold illegal protest actions in the city center and sow anarchy and chaos, while preventing such attempts brings down the country’s rating on freedom, then let the organization assess actions of the Central European countries’ law enforcement agencies against participants of such actions.

For us, preventing chaos and anarchy, attempts of those who lost the sense of responsibility, violating the internal stability, hindering normal activities of people and other illegal actions of such type is a requirement and observance of the legality. As for the impunity of “journalists” -who insult citizens, slander and are engaged in racketeering using their profession, and betray their people and the state, then it also does not coincide with the wishes of the Azerbaijani society now,” Hasanov told Trend on Thursday

Every Azerbaijani citizen regardless of his profession should realize responsibility for his actions and respect the rights and freedoms of others, Hasanov said.

“There is a balance of human rights in legal states. One person’s rights end where another person’s rights begin. This is the way we understand the balance of human rights in Azerbaijan “.

“As for opinions and views on other issues indicated in the report of the Freedom House- restriction of the freedom of journalists, threat to Internet freedom, harassment and arrest of bloggers, presence of intolerable situation in prisons, torture of prisoners and others, we believe that they are nothing more than the subjective opinions,” Hasanov said.

“These reports have been mainly based on the information of several NGOs’ reports, preparing false reports for them within the country and funded by some Westerns circles of anti-Azerbaijani nature,” he said. “They have nothing to do with Azerbaijan ‘s current situation.”

Hasanov also commented on the negative evaluation by Freedom House of some reconstruction and resettlement operations, conducted in accordance with the general project of Baku, and added that it is the same old story for Azerbaijan .

“Such accusations are based on the same lie and slander,” he said.

“Armenian lobby and some Western anti-Azerbaijani circles are involved in this campaign which started from the Eurovision Song contest,” he said.

“All reconstruction and improvement operations in Baku are conducted on the initiative of President Aliyev for the people, their well-being, the accomplishment and beauty of the city,” he said.

“This is done for expanding and reconstructing the domestic infrastructure, restoring the city’s harmony, which was broken earlier, comfortable living of hundred thousands of residents of cities and tens of thousands of residential areas, ensuring convenient movement in accordance with Baku’s general plan,” he said.

“But, unfortunately, one could not avoid resettlement of some families to other places during these operations,” Hasanov added.

“According to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s special order, the rights of people who have been resettled were fully ensured,” he said. “More suitable alternative variants and convenient housing or the relevant payments were proposed to them. These people agreed to this.”

“Of course, some people, who have been resettled, were dissatisfied because they did not want to leave the houses where they lived for many years, which is natural,” he said. “But there were few dissatisfied people as opposed to those satisfied and those who backed the future improvement of the conditions in these residential areas of Baku.”

“Tens of thousands of people have been resettled in Azerbaijan ,” he said. “Of course, one can find three — five dissatisfied people, so they would talk to the press and appear on television, which has been done.”

“How is it possible that the opinions of 3-4 individuals out of tens of thousands of displaced persons are re-published by some Western circles, Western press, and Freedom House includes this in its report? Wouldn’t it be better for them to consider the opinions of other displaced people, when preparing this kind of information? If to summarize the report of Freedom House, it does not differ from the reports prepared by a number of NGOs that they submit every year. Azerbaijan is not the only country mentioned there, as there are all post-Soviet countries included as well, in the majority of which, freedom and human rights are allegedly violated and restricted,” Hasanov said.

“The negative evaluation of the most post-Soviet countries indicates that the methodology and approach of the “Freedom House” are wrong,” he said. “The sources that it relies are making statements proceeding from their subjective positions. Most of these sources are NGOs funded by targeted funds and interested in forming a negative image of Azerbaijan .”

Prisoners to Skype? WHAT?

BRIEF: Prisoners in Azerbaijan may be able to use Skype to communicate with families
Trend News Agency (Baku, Azerbaijan ) – Monday, December 10, 2012
Author: K. Zarbaliyeva, Trend News Agency, Baku, Azerbaijan
Dec. 10–There is a possibility that in Azerbaijani prisons, communication between prisoners and their families through the Internet program Skype may soon be coming, but it is currently forbidden by law and accordingly can’t be used, head of the Prison Service Madat Guliyev told journalists.

He added that if legislation is amended, then there will be conditions allowing the use of Skype by prisoners.

Touching upon the smuggling of prohibited items into prisons, Guliyev said that 11 mobile phones were found today during an inspection of prison No. 2.

He added that unfortunately, in such cases, it is often found that relatives of the prisoner are involved.

And looks like Azerbaijan’s gonna get some fat pipe, but this remains to be seen

TAE fiber-optic line to be transferred to reserve for stability of Azerbaijani sector of Internet
Trend News Agency (Baku, Azerbaijan ) – Thursday, December 13, 2012
Author: H. Veliyev, Trend News Agency, Baku, Azerbaijan
Dec. 13–Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic cable backbone will be used as a reserve channel to stabilize the AzNET segment, a source close to the project told Trend on Wednesday.

It is facilitated by the upcoming plans of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan to implement a large-scale project for the development of broadband Internet in Azerbaijan in 2013, the main component of which is the expansion of broadband Internet coverage of rural areas, where the optical infrastructure is still underdeveloped.

“Laid optic lines of FO-20 standard have the potential not to cope with the greater bandwidth. Therefore, all the lines need to be replaced by cables of FO-48 standard. Regarding TAE, this project used cables of FO-12, FO -16, FO-20 and FO-24 standards. Therefore, the implementation of the project of development of broadband Internet contributes to the fact that TAE, used as a key line, will be transferred to the reserve,” the source said.

Today, over 35 percent of the villages of the country are covered by the optical links. Production Association Aztelekom Azerbaijan laid about two thousand kilometers of fiber-optic communication lines in the regions. Over 500 kilometers of cable were laid by the efforts of commercial providers.

Interfax: Investment in Azerbaijani hi-tech sector to 2020 may top $7 bln
Interfax News Agency (Moscow, Russia) – Friday, December 7, 2012
BAKU. Dec 7 (Interfax) – The government of Azerbaijan expects that investment in its hi-tech sector to 2020 could top $7 billion.

“The government will spend $3.6 billion to 2020 on the production hi-technology products and services. In addition, we expect the same amount of foreign direct investment. The European Union is one of our most reliable partners in this respect,” Communications and IT Minister Ali Abbasov said at a meeting with ambassadors of EU member states in Azerbaijan , a ministry press release says.

The minister told the diplomats about reforms in and the outlook for ICT. “Our main aim is to reduce to a minimum the dependence on the oil sector that the country’s economy has, and to achieve annual 20% growth in ICT in the next 10 years. Thanks to this, the volume of the ICT sector will grow four-fold by 2020,” the minister said.

To achieve the target aims the internet needs to be developed, he said. “We plan to achieve an 85% boost to broadband internet use in the next three years, while the minimum speed will be 10 megabits per second,” Abbasov said.

“The Azerbaijani government plans in the next few years to focus on an electronic government project. By 2020 around 80% of the country’s population will use electronic services,” he added.

In order to develop the ICT sector, Azerbaijan plans to increase competitiveness and ease customs and tax policy, the minister said.

BRIEF: Next phase of Azerbaijan ‘s broadband internet development to be completed by 2016
Trend News Agency (Baku, Azerbaijan ) – Friday, December 7, 2012
Author: H. Valiyev, Trend News Agency, Baku, Azerbaijan
Dec. 07–Aztelekom production association has laid around 2,000 kilometers of fiber-optic communication lines in Azerbaijan for its broadband internet project, Aztelekom CEO Magomed Mammadov said at a press-conference on Thursday.

According to Mammadov, more than 500 kilometers of cable were laid with the assistance of commercial providers.

“At present, the work on laying optical infrastructure is carried out in almost all regions of the country. Extending optical infrastructure will increase the number of broadband internet users,” Mammadov said.

According to him, at present, the number of broadband connections in the Aztelekom network reaches 102,000, while at the beginning of this year the figure stood at about 25,000.

“Aztelekom has developed the next stage (2013-2015) of the project, during which optic fiber will be brought to the end user,” Mammadov said.

BRIEF: Azerbaijan to be fully covered by broadband Internet by 2015
Trend News Agency (Baku, Azerbaijan ) – Thursday, December 6, 2012
Author: H. Valiyev, Trend News Agency, Baku, Azerbaijan
Dec. 06–The volume of investments in the development of the Aztelekom production association’s network as of 2012 is expected to hit 25-30 million manat, Aztelekom director general Magomed Mammadov told media today.

“The volume of investments in the development of the state operator’s network has hit about 20 million manat for nine months,” he said. “Investments are made through internal funds.”

Currently, the main challenge for Aztelekom is to increase the number of broadband Internet users.

Mammadov said it is planned to allocate more than 200 million manat to implement the project of developing broadband Internet in the regions in 2013. The project will be financed by the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan .

“By 2015, all the Azerbaijani territory will be covered by broadband Internet and the minimum Internet speed will be 10 Mbits / s,” he said. “Operations have been prepared to prepare the documents to develop broadband Internet .”

13 Dec

New article out

I have a new article out with Beverly Bondad-Brown and Ron Rice.

Bondad-Brown, B., Rice, R. E., & Pearce, K. E. (2012). Understanding the role of motivations, audience activity, generational cohort, & contextual age in online video use & recommendations. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56, 471-493.


We worked on this project in 2005-2006 when YouTube and online video watching was first hitting the scene. As happens, it took this long to get out as a publication. I don’t see myself working on online video again in the future, but this project was a lot of fun.

06 Dec

Today in the Clusterf#*k that is Azerbaijani Internet Policy

think of the children

A fun new trend in the constant stream of nonsense that is the Azerbaijani government’s Internet policy. (tl;dr the government is setting up new ways to control the Internet without appearing to control the Internet.)

Keep those Azerbaijani kids off the Interwebz! Now we’re worried about the kids!

Here are some news stories (some copy and pasted from databases)

Azerbaijan promotes distance learning, but children`s Internet access needs control
AzerNEWS ( Azerbaijan ) – Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Author: Nigar Orujova
A new Internet portal for children will be created in Azerbaijan in the coming months to broadcast educational TV programs, the Education Ministry`s ICT Bureau head Samir Mammadov said Tuesday, adding that the ministry has launched the implementation of the Tehsil TV (Educational TV) project.
“The project`s primary goal is to inform Azerbaijani population of the country`s educational programs, pro­jects and overall situation in the Azerbaijani education system, including news and lessons,” Mammadov said. He said the portal will be a platform for all those involved in the process of education — teachers, schoolchildren and their parents.
Under the project, the Education Ministry has ordered recording a number of programs and lessons for the portal, while signing a contract with a studio to record such programs on a regular basis is still ahead.
“The project, implemented in the frame of the state program on the education system`s informatization, will be presented in the near future,” Mammadov added.
The use of the Internet for educational purposes is invaluable, as the Web can easily provide a schoolchild with all the required information. However, schoolchildren` Web usage should be controlled by parents and teachers.
According to the head of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children`s Affairs, Hijran Huseynova, the government should take substantial action to limit the use of the Internet by schoolchildren.
“The use of the Internet in order to improve the education of children is positive, but on the other hand, through the Internet , children have access to unnecessary information,” she commented. “Moreover, this leads to serious problems and causes dangerous results. In this issue, first of all, parents need to be in control. At the same time, a serious approach should be exercised at schools.”
A package of amendments and addenda to the domestic legislation has been drafted to ensure control over children`s use of the Web both at Internet cafes and at home, chief adviser for the State Committee, Parviz Aliyev, said on Monday.
The committee has conducted monitoring in Internet cafes [ed: great!] to examine the situation in this area. The results showed that children were going to “ Internet clubs” during lessons and visit websites with negative impact, Aliyev said.
“The monitoring revealed that sometimes children do not go to school day after day and spend time in Internet cafes,” Aliyev said. “Parents think that children are at school while the school does not inform parents about their children`s absence. Parents [often] are not interested in their children`s school attendance, they do not build relations with the school. The monitoring revealed that 15 schoolchildren were at Internet clubs during lessons.”
Some of the proposals made pertain to age limits for children`s access to Internet cafes, the time spent there and websites they should be allowed to visit.
According to Aliyev, it is also proposed to install cameras in Internet cafes to keep track of visitors during the day. [ed: lovely.]
Fines are envisioned for Internet cafes violating these requirements and parents who do not supervise their children. The Internet cafes ignoring warnings will face administrative penalties and may be closed.
According to Aliyev, the proposals also envision Internet service providers` applying filters for children who use the Internet at home.
Aliyev said the package of proposals has been submitted to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies.

Parental and governmental control
AzerNEWS ( Azerbaijan ) – Wednesday, December 5, 2012
A lack of internet skills among parents could harm their children. However, restrictions on Internet use are not the way out. Otherwise, poor knowledge of the Internet may have a negative impact on children`s education and employment opportunities.
Parents should examine their children`s use of the Web to be sure that they use it properly. There are a number of websites with sexually explicit information, which can be detrimental to a child. Moreover, some dangerous and suspicious people who come to chat rooms may be a threat to minors.
Even if parents are Internet -illiterate, there are some tips to protect the child from offensive content on the Internet . Parents should control how much time their children spend on the Internet and enquire what they do online.
Microsoft, the world`s largest software company, is also concerned about Internet safety. In association with the American Academy of Pediatrics, Microsoft has developed age-based guidance for Internet use with family safety settings, which is available on the company`s website.
Notwithstanding modern Internet filters, guidance by parents who know their child and his or her habits best is more helpful to protect children.

Minister: Informatization level of Azerbaijani educational system to be satisfactory
Trend News Agency (Baku, Azerbaijan ) – Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Author: H. Valiyev, Trend News Agency, Baku, Azerbaijan
Nov. 28–Azerbaijani Education Ministry have submitted the next phase of project on informatization of educational system to the government of the country, the Minister of Education Misir Mardanov told reporters on Tuesday.
According to the minister, ratification of the project, implementation of which is envisaged within 7 years, is expected. Work on informatization of educational system, connecting schools to the global network and enhancing the skills of teaching staff in the field of information technology will be continued within the project.
“The current level of educational system’s informatization can be considered as satisfactory, and the level of informatization will grow further with the financing of the field,” he said.
According to Mardanov, today more than half of teaching staff, about 80.000 teachers, have been trained to enhance their skills in information technology. According to these figures, Azerbaijan exceeds average indicators.
As for equipping schools with computer equipment, today one computer falls to the share of 20 students, the minister said.
“Our main goal is not to reduce the number, for the computers, issued to schools, to be used for the intended purpose . Also one of the important aspects is to improve the literacy level of teachers in information technology, as well as increasing the number of schools connected to the Internet ” Mardanov said.

Here’s a link to a similar story in Azerbaijani.

In other Azerbaijani Internet bullshit…

Azerbaijan prepares norms for usage of state language in internet
Azeri-Press News Agency ( Azerbaijan ) – Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The norms for usage of the state language in the internet are being prepared in Azerbaijan , director of Linguistics Institute of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences Fakhraddin Veysalli told APA. According to him, for this purpose, a research group has been already established at the Linguistics Institute: “The research group is working on these norms. The norms for usage of the state language in the internet will be created within year and a half or two years. It aims to create common norms, which will be observed by the citizens of the country while using internet .”
Fakhraddin Veysalli said that the norms must be admitted by all members of the society and considered necessary for all. After having been prepared the norms will be discussed at the Presidium of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and submitted to the government of Azerbaijan .
“Despite free internet , the use of language must be controlled. After these rules are confirmed under the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, their use will be controlled. According to the State Program on the development of linguistics, the Monitoring Group, which will be set up at the Linguistics Institute, will exercise control over the issue,” he said.

And we all know how much I love talking about Internet penetration in Azerbaijan. Looks like full Internet penetration (which NO COUNTRY has yet to achieve) will be reached in Azerbaijan in 2015.

It never gets boring.