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Web crackdowns spread

A new law in Kazakhstan increases internet oversight, while Azerbaijan arrests producers of satirical web video.

Officials in the oil-rich Caspian state of Azerbaijan, which is tightly held in the iron grasp of President Ilham Aliyev (no relation to Rakhat), seem to be taking the same approach. 

Last week, opposition youth activists Adnan Haji-zadeh and Emin Milli were sitting with friends in a restaurant in the capital Baku, when, according to papers filed by their defense lawyer, they were attacked by two men. When they arrived at the local police station to file a complaint, they were arrested on charges of “hooliganism” and face two to five years in prison. 

Their supporters claim instead however that their true crime was to have posted a satirical video poking fun at the government on the internet, featuring a man in a donkey suit holding a mock press conference.

The film was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the Azerbaijani government’s recent purchase of donkeys from abroad for what was considered an unusually large sum, and on a law that restricts the work of NGOs. In it the man in the capacious donkey suit complains of having his luggage stolen and plays the violin (to justify his high price), in addition to directing barbed criticism at the NGO legislation. 

“In Azerbaijan, the possibilities for donkeys are enormous,” the donkey tells stoned-faced reporters, according to the translation provided with the video. 

“If you are donkey enough, you can succeed in probably everything,” he adds. “I would be so much happier in Azerbaijan. I would try to be more [of] a donkey than before.”