Azerbaijan blocking international Internet phone calls
It has been practically impossible to make internet video and voice calls using the WhatsApp and Skype messaging apps in Azerbaijan since mid-May.
According to the initial unofficial version, the aforesaid was a compulsory measure, temporarily taken by the Azerbaijani Transport and Communications Ministry to prevent Internet overloading during the Islamic Solidarity Games. It was Osman Gündüz, the President of ‘Multimedia’ NGO, who voiced the aforesaid version.
However, the Islamic Games finished on 22 May, with all the guests having left the country. However, it’s still almost impossible to make Internet phone calls using those messaging apps.
The Ministry doesn’t offer any explanations with regard to the aforesaid situation. As a Ministry spokesperson told Turan news agency, operation of the aforesaid applications wasn’t restricted.
Both the Ministry officials and pro-governmental MPs, have continuously spoken out for the need to ‘regulate’ international internet phone calls.
However, independent experts have opposed those plans.
Alesker Mammadli, a lawyer, claims that the government is not entitled to interfere into citizen-messenger-application bilateral communication. ‘The actual reason behind this situation is a desire to accumulate within the ministry’s structures the financial gain that it had failed to obtain due to subscribers’ use of international social media and messaging applications, as well as an intention to get individual information about each subscriber,’ said Mammadli.
Ilgar Mirza, an IT expert, believes the matter concerns some commercial interests of mobile network operators, who press upon the ministry, urging the government to restrict the operation of social media and messaging applications that are competing with mobile companies in the international communications field. As a result, the mobile network operators sustain serious losses, since it’s more convenient to communicate with a foreign friend via Skype free of charge. You just pay for Internet use,” contact.az website quoted Mirza as saying.
Azerbaijani social media users, in general, were negative about blocking the applications. However, some people took it with understanding. Here are a few quotes from social media and forums:
“If you ask me, it’s better to live without WhatsApp for a while, rather than to become a terrorist attack victim. As you might have noticed, our defense agencies have been dealing with it pretty well. You live in a very safe country. You should live in a slightly different environment to understand how important it is to feel protected. And accept some privations for that.”
“The company I work for can’t hold online video conferences and discuss the issues with foreign colleagues in a convenient, modern format.”
“Do you seriously think that this can stop terror? While we are trying to explain the reasons for this block and find justifications to them, they keep squeezing out money.”
“A 9th grader has easily connected to Skype via a VPN program right in front of my eyes. So, do the authorities really think that some hypothetical terrorists are unaware of how to bypass the ban?”