Late last month, a group of Azeri bloggers posted their latest tongue-in-cheek opus, a video in which a donkey holds a news conference before a circle of gravely nodding journalists.
Dressed in a voluminous gray costume, Adnan Hajizada rhapsodizes over the lush life awaiting donkeys in Azerbaijan. To his audience — cosmopolitan young Azeris following his commentaries on blogs and Facebook — the video was a sly send-up of the government, which had been accused in the local news media of paying exorbitant prices to import donkeys.
Mr. Hajizada, 26, and his fellow activist Emin Milli, 30, were arrested last week in Baku, the capital, in an event their supporters say could signal the beginning of a crackdown on online media. Azeri authorities said the two physically attacked other men, though witnesses have challenged that account. They are awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism, which carries a sentence of one to five years in prison.
According to a motion filed by Mr. Hajizada’s lawyer, the two men were with friends at a restaurant last Wednesday, engrossed in political debate, when two strangers broke into their conversation and started a fight. Mr. Hajizada and Mr. Milli went to file a complaint about the assault, but instead an investigator opened a criminal case against them, the motion said…
In Azerbaijan, as elsewhere in the region, Internet use has risen as press freedoms have dwindled. With the Azeri government buoyed by sky-high oil prices in recent years, opposition voices have all but disappeared from public life. Television, once financed by competing oligarchs, has come under solid government control, and advertisers have pulled back from newspapers critical of the government. Web sites — especially those registered on foreign servers, which cannot be blocked by the government — became “the last source of information,” said Magerram Zeynalov, 27, a former newspaper reporter.
Anyone out there know of lots of countries basing their economy on oil – that encourage democracy over graft and corruption?
I could think of a couple. What? Maybe 15%?