In its most recent measurement report, the Open Observatory of Network Interference [OONI] concludes that “while social media censorship in Azerbaijan appears to have been lifted, the media censorship remains.” These and other findings are based on the recent measurement report produced in partnership with OONI.
Here are some highlights.
The news websites that presented signs of blocking in Azerbaijan (between December 2020 to February 2021) include:
🛑 azerbaycansaati.tv – at the time of blocking azerbaycansaati.tv in 2017, the Government of Azerbaijan claimed “a number of articles published” by the news website “included calls aimed at ‘forcible change of the constitutional order,’ ‘organization of mass riots,’ and other illegal activities.”
🛑 www.24saat.org – a more detailed report about how 24saat.org was blocked can be found in this report, published by Qurium in 2017.
🛑 www.abzas.net – DDoS attacks against abzas.net commenced on January 12, 2017, and lasted for eight days. During five full consecutive days, the website remained inaccessible until it was finally migrated to VirtualRoad.org’s secure hosting infrastructure.
🛑 www.azadliq.info – as a hosting provider for azadliq.info Qurium published this report about initial signs of blocking against this online news platform. The website was attacked numerous times according to documentation and forensic reports by Qurium. The technology deployed in these DDoS attacks was Allot and Sandvine DPI gear.
🛑 www.azadliq.org – the news website which represents the Azerbaijan Service for Radio Free Europe, was blocked on March 27, 2017.
🛑 www.gununsesi.org – signs of DPI technology used in blocking gununsesi.org were once again documented by Qurium.
🛑 www.meydan.tv – was also among the websites that were blocked in 2017 together with azerbaycansaati, azadliq.info and others.
🛑 www.occrp.org – in response to the leaks about Azerbaijan Laundromat published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Research Project [OCCRP], the government of Azerbaijan suspended access to OCCRP’s website.
There is no official data on the number of blocked websites in Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Communication, High Technologies and Transportation has so far failed to provide accurate lists. This in itself is a violation of Article 13.3.6 of the Law on Information, Informatisation and Access to Information, which requests the Ministry to prepare a list of blocked websites if it has blocked access to a resource and the court upheld this decision.
In July 2018, the Prosecutor General’s Office launched criminal investigations against four news websites: criminal.az, bastainfo.com, topxeber.az and fia.az. The former two were accused of “knowingly spreading false information,” while the latter two were accused of “spreading unfounded, sensational claims in order to confuse the public.” Criminal.az is an independent website, known for its coverage of crime-related news, while bastainfo.com is affiliated with the opposition party Musavat. The latter two are run-of-the-mill online news websites.
In addition to the usual suspects, video streaming service Vimeo appeared to be briefly blocked during the testing coverage:
Several circumvention tool websites appear to have been interfered with in Azerbaijan during the testing period, as illustrated below:
The good news are that access to social media sites and apps was restored during the testing period. The following chart shows that while WhatsApp and Telegram were blocked in November 2020, both apps (along with Facebook Messenger) have been accessible in recent months:
How you can help?
If you are interested in contributing to these tests you are welcome to try the following instructions.