One year earlier than planned, access to information and free expression will be essential throughout Azerbaijan’s snap presidential elections on February 7, 2024. Through an open letter, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are calling on the government of Azerbaijan to ensure unrestricted access to the internet and digital communication platforms throughout the upcoming election.
Azerbaijani authorities have a long track record of resorting to internet shutdowns throughout military escalations and periods of social unrest. This pattern includes throttling major social media networks for 46 days in 2020, blocking TikTok in 2022, and completely disconnecting cities from the rest of the world during ongoing military operations in 2023. Authorities in Azerbaijan impose internet blackouts as a tool to maintain their own narratives, control information flow, and silence dissenting voices.
Through an open letter, Access Now and the #KeepItOn coalition are issuing a series of recommendations, including:
The government of Azerbaijan:
- Stop shutting down, throttling, or blocking the internet, and make a firm commitment to refrain from imposing any unlawful restrictions on internet access and telecommunications in the future, particularly amid the ongoing conflicts in the region;
- Repeal and amend any laws and policies that legitimize internet shutdowns, and enact rights-respecting in compliance with Azerbaijan’s obligations under international human rights law.
- Preserve evidence and reveal any demands from the government of Azerbaijan urging you to disrupt internet access, and any pressure to conceal those demands;
- Publicly disclose details such as when the internet and related services have been disrupted, their status throughout the shutdowns, and when they come back online;
- Consult civil society and rally peer companies to jointly push back against government censorship demands, and issue regular transparency reports to ensure open and secure internet access and deter future shutdown orders.