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Azerbaijan: Confusion over Internet problems with Azadliq site

rfe-rl_logoIn the past few days in Azerbaijan, some users have complained that many sites, including Yahoo Mail, Gmail and Facebook, were inaccessible. In a region such as the Caucasus where the Internet is less than reliable at the best of times, such things can happen.

However, because the problems also included users having problems accessing the web site of Radio Free Europe's Azeri service, some automatically assumed it was a government block. Azadliq was prevented from broadcasting on radio frequencies at the beginning of last year after controversial legislation effectively banned foreign stations from doing so.

Such fears were probably also well founded given Azadliq's publication of reports related to last week's exposé by the Washington Post concerning apparently suspect real estate deals in Dubai by the family of the president, Ilham Aliyev.

azadliq_0001

Word of the apparent problems also spread on Facebook, with some reporting that it only affected some secondary providers. Indeed, when Global Voices Online contacted several Internet users in Azerbaijan, they reported experiencing no problems at all.

Some even chatted over Gmail chat and sent mails from Yahoo at the same time as others reported the sites were inaccessible or not working properly while one even updated his status advising on how they could access the site.

facebook_0001

When typing www.azadliq.org instead of Azadliq.Org it opens. Check it!

Problems were occurring, however, pushing the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (IRFS) to publish a news item.

Restriction of access to Radio Liberty website from several internet providers operating in Azerbaijan including Bakinternet”, “Azeronline”, “Uninet”, “Ultel”, “Connect” and “Adanet” is continuing.

The “Facebook” social network disseminated information regarding this. The Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety conducted an investigation into this issue. “Ultel” provider told IRFS that the problem is linked to the website itself.

“Connect” provider’s operator Tofig Huseynov said that “Connect” did not impose any restriction on access to Radio Liberty website.

“Azeronline” representative on customer services Tural Omarov said that it is possible to access website by writing www at the beginning of azadliq.org.

Yesterday, IRFS published a statement based on some of the Facebook user reports.

The Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety condemns the restriction of access to Radio Liberty’s website by internet providers operating in Azerbaijan and assesses this as censorship by Azerbaijan government on the internet indirectly.

On 6 March, at 3:00 p.m., access to Radio Liberty’s website from several internet providers operating in Azerbaijan was restricted. Comprehensive information regarding this issue was disseminated on the “Facebook” social network. This restriction is still being continued.

IRFS does not rule out the possibility that due to the fact that an Azeri version of the critical article regarding Azerbaijan leadership published in the Washington Post was put onto Radio Liberty’s website is the reason for this censorship.

However, when Global Voices Online contacted two Internet specialists in Azerbaijan asking for their opinion, they ruled out the possibility of a government block, and not least because several other sites of a non-political nature were inaccessible and it anyway only affected a few ISPs.

Another specialist even updated his Facebook status.
azadliq_0002

The problems encountered within a few days while entering Azadliq Radio and at the same time a number of other sites have nothing to do with providers – the problem was caused by a temporary technical glitch in the communication channel between Delta Telecom and Turk Telekom.

osi

You don't want to help anybody. The only thing you do in our country is money laundering and act as a political destabilizer. That's the end. Happy Women's Day dear ladies.

Because of the confusion and differing opinions on why and to what extent Azadliq was inaccessible, Global Voices Online contacted one European visitor to Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, to ask for further assessment, especially as the web site of the Open Society Institute (OSI) had been hacked at roughly the same time.

osi_fb

At time of writing, while some allege a block and technical specialists and others who could access the sites in question dispute such speculation, the reality is that confusion prevails. However, similar problems were encountered in Turkey a week earlier with Facebook at least, perhaps backing up the opinion of the technical specialists that there was no block.

Nevertheless, with two video blogging youth activists currently in prison and more activists going online, fears over the possibility of online censorship in the future are very real indeed. Meanwhile, there is no consensus of opinion as to the reason for some users experiencing difficulties in accessing Azadliq and other sites.

Thanks to A. for translation from Azerbaijani into English.

13 comments

  • Rustam

    According to the unofficial information from Azerbaijan Internet Forum (www.aif.az), Delta Telecom offered RadioLiberty to send independent expert to their data centre in order to investigate this problem further.

  • Sabina Rahimova

    Right now I can’t access Radio Azadliq web page. trying with and without www. I call to provider Bakinternet, they give no explanation. I don’t know who Onnik Kirkorian is and who is his contact in Azerbaijan, and internet experts, they apparently lie. Azerbaijan Internet Forum is a bunch of pro-government opportunists, bought out by government and expressing only allowed criticism. I wonder if Radio Azadliq has an expert to find out the core of the problem. What I know that AIF can not be considered independent. In 2008 Osman Gunduz, the head of the AIF was part of the coalition that confirmed that results of elections were democratic and can not be questioned.

  • Sabina,

    If you read the post closely you will see that some people can access it while those on secondary providers can’t. Moreover, all those alleging a block say the same thing.

    That is, some ISPs are affected, others are not.

    So, the fact of problems with accessing Azadliq is not in question. What is uncertain is why. And I say again, when others couldn’t access the site, others could.

    As the title implies, despite some alleging a block and some NOTED specialists who say it is a technical problem, the reasons are still unknown.

  • It should also be pointed out that (so far at least), RFE/RL’s main site has not published anything regarding the problems, probably because — as the post says — noody knows what happened and it’s too early to call it a block. I don’t think even Azadliq has called it one yet, although IRFS have.

    If and when that changes, however, there will be another post. Until then, this post merely reflects a variety of opinions and experiences from on the ground in Azerbaijan.

  • Aygun Janmammadova

    Dear Sabina,

    Interestingly, I can access http://www.azadliq.org and azadliq.org without any problems though I have a lousy internet at home (provider Adanet). Right now I am on their page and can give you latest news :)

    All these days (that were reported as “blocked” days) I could access my Gmail, Yahoo email, Washington post and Azadliq Radiosu.

  • Aygun Janmammadova

    Sabina
    for example,
    just got this news from azadliq.org

    http://www.azadliq.org/archive/news/latest/1/1.html
    XƏBƏRLƏR
    Çilidə yenidən zəlzələ olub
    Çilidə yenidən zəlzələ olub. Bu dəfə 7,2 bal gücündə.

    Earthquake in Chile again.
    Earrthquake in Chile again. This time measuring 7.2

  • Sabina Rahimova

    Aygun, thank you for posting news, but I can read RadioAzadliq website thanks to anti-filter sites. I use vtunnel.com. My concern is many people don’t know about those programs widely used in internet blocking countries such as Iran and China.

    My friends using Adanet and Eurasianet haven’t experienced problems as well. It is true that the page is blocked on either secondary level provider or right between them and Delta Telekom the main ISP.

    Another question is what prompts AIF to confirm that there was not intentional blocking. I did not see any proves of that as well.

    What I know is I open the page using ANTI-FILTER websites

  • Aygun Janmammadova

    Dear Sabina, you are welcome.

    Strange, but I do not use anti-filter sites (have no idea about them too) but the web sites in question open. I simply type http://www.azadliq.org or just azadliq.org and here I am surfing their web.

    Your friends did not have a problem while connecting with Adanet? So it means it has something to do with server or connection thing I guess. If it was an intentional block, no one could ever connect I think.

    Cheers.

  • Aygun Janmammadova

    clarification: when I say “connect” I mean “accessing the web”.

  • Aygun Janmammadova

    And please, I do not want my comments to be interpreted as the ones “supporting” AIF’s argument. I am only saying what is going on in reality with my internet+being able to access+reading Azadliq Radiousu now (and back then).

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