The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) and Media Rights Institute are deeply concerned about Communication and Information Technologies Minister Ali Abbasov’s statements regarding the importance to license local internet-providers and online televisions and declare that the licensing will negatively affect the improvement in the internet industry of Azerbaijan in the next few years.
IRFS and MRI emphasize that there is no precedent in other countries to license the operation of internet providers, and note that right after the elimination of licensing, the internet industry has begun to develop in Azerbaijan. As a result of this, the internet market is not in the monopoly of several providers. Although there are serious shortcomings in the service sector; there has been progress in extending internet to all the parts of the country. According to the norms of national legislation envisaging the regulation of the providers’ operation, this function should be carried out by the Economic Development State Anti-Monopoly Service. IRFS and MRI believe that if the current legislation was to function these arguments stressed in the statements would be removed.
IRFS and MRI note that the statement regarding the importance of the licensing internet TV and radios threatens the citizens’ right to free expression, and this example can be found in countries where democratic development is poor; applying the concept of licensing to internet broadcasting does not comply with the character of the national legislative base, and the international contracts to which Azerbaijan is a party. According to the Law “On TV and Radio Broadcasting, “…preliminary transmission of sound and visible TV radio programs mass broadcasted by means of technological devices to certain distance and received by mass and received by any TV and radio receivers” is considered TV and radio broadcasting. This notion includes the provision of broadcasting using coded devices (cards) by means of satellite by legal and physical persons and programs retranslated by other broadcasters. TV and radio broadcasting is an activity to be licensed. However, the notion “television and radio broadcasting” does not embrace information or other materials passed by the telecommunication system, internet, or received by individual calls.
“Televisions and radios” operating on internet and not broadcasted via radio frequencies or by means of TV satellites do not mean the same classical broadcasts of television and radios. Receiving these broadcasts by television and radio receivers is impossible. For this reason, there is no need to license Internet TV and Radio broadcasts on internet.
The Media Rights Institute and the Institute for Reporters` Freedom and Safety call on the Azerbaijani government to thwart this decision that threatens freedom of speech and expression, and to take steps to provide for the creation of infrastructure of speedy internet, to develop broadcasting on internet, to form an internet market that will revive the service sector, and to secure the independence of broadcasting media.
On 17 April, Communication and Information Technologies Minister Ali Abbasov said that operation of internet providers will be licensed and the operation of Online TV that do not receive a license will be restricted.