ENDitorial: Regulating online media in Azerbaijan?

By EDRi · June 17, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [ENDitorial: die Regulierung von online-Medien in Aserbeidschan | http://www.unwatched.org/node/1437]

I was invited last week to a meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan by the Council of
Europe that organized together with the local National TV and Radio Council
in order to discuss some issues related to the regulation of online media.

The meeting took place on 4 June 2009 and the first part was dedicated to
the local authorities (Ministry of Communication and Information
Technologies or National TV and Radio Council) local Internet actors (The
online news agency lent.az, or APA news agency) and NGOs (such as Azerbaijan
Internet Forum or IREX Azerbaijan).

Although the authorities and private partners sat at the same table, there
was a huge difference in speeches. While the Deputy Minister of
Communications and Information Technologies Iltimas Mammadov talked about
2000 km optic cable already deployed and measures for using Internet in the
cars via WiMax, the private sector claimed that 95% of the population used
dial-up or similar connections and that the average cost of a 1Mb/s monthly
connection was between 60-120 manats (approx. 53-107 Euro), which is a huge
price for an average person in Azerbaijan.

While the authorities claimed that anyone can start an ISP, the private
sector insisted that, basically, the backbone connectivity could be bought
only from a “special” ISP – Delta Telecom. The high final prices and
allegation of some content being blocked by the authorities could thus be

Talking about regulating online media, the voices seem to converge in asking
for a definition of “electronic media”. Strangely in my opinion, the private
sector representatives asked for a clarification in this respect, seeming to
want such a registration for the electronic media (which is in fact more a
notification). But this could be explained by the fact that otherwise you
are not invited to press conferences or able to get an interview from an

In a country where you need to register your off-line publication with the
Ministry of Justice or your TV or radio station with the National Television
and Radio Council, most of the speakers seem to claim that the regulation
should be the rule to protect others’ privacy or honour, to prevent
pro-aggressive war speech (this part may be a result of the war on
Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia) or hacking of websites (?!?).

Another interesting aspect is that the present mass-media law from 2009
lists the Internet as a mass-medium.

The European experience presented by Mr Marcel Betzel, a policy adviser from
the Dutch Media Authority and by myself was focused on whether any
regulation was needed in the new online environment and whether such a
regulation would be feasible.We also tried to emphasise with concrete
examples the importance of self-regulation and its results.

I have specifically explained why a registration of online media could be
seen as a potential infringement of the freedom of expression if we take
into consideration the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.
Also why we need to consider whether a new legislation is feasible in terms
of its application and whether it will just send the unwanted content hosted
in another country.

Mr. Betzel also presented the difficulties of implementing the new European
Audiovisual Media Services Directive and identifying which site can be
considered web TV or Internet radio, according to the new rules.

Taking into consideration the traditional IT development skills of the
Azeri, the Internet has a lot of place to grow, but for now, it is hard to
estimate what the future actions of the Azeri authorities will be, if any,
for a “better regulation” of the online media.

Regulation of Online Media in Azerbaijan

Conference on the theme “Regulation of Internet media in Azerbaijan” takes
place (4.06.2009)

Azerbaijan – OpenNet Initiative Profile

(contribution by Bogdan Manolea – EDRi-member APTI – Romania)