Two years in jail for donkey video

Two Azerbaijani bloggers were sentenced to jail on Wednesday. Charged with "hooliganism", the pair were arrested shortly after posting a satirical video online which mocked the government's alleged purchase of a dozen - suspiciously priced - 41,000 dollar donkeys from Germany.

After already four months of detention, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli are now beginning sentences of two years, and two years six months, respectively. They were charged for fighting with a pair of men in a cafe in Baku, something which they immediately reported to the police as an unprovoked attack, but which led to their arrest the same day (8 July) and on November 11, their sentencing. The ruling has been condemned by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 

Hajizade is the founder of OL!, a web savvy youth movement which often ridicules the government. It was along with the group, which Milli is a member of, that the pair produced the following, now infamous, donkey video, which was posted on YouTube on 28 June.

Posted on OL!'s YouTube channel

“A warning against youth activists from speaking out”

Onnik Krikorian is a photojournalist and blogger specialised in the Caucuses. He has been following the case of Hajizade and Milli on his blog .

Lots of countries in this region, including Armenia, continue to use Soviet-era practices and regulations to silence dissent. This ‘hooliganism' charge is normally used to jail journalists. The only difference here, is that it happened to two young activists because of something posted on YouTube.

Online media is becoming increasingly widespread in Azerbaijan, and the OL! youth movement used social and new media very efficiently and extensively. I think this case against Hajizade and Milli was pretty much a warning against youth activists from speaking out.

I think that when you have oil, pressure [from the OSCE and the public] really doesn't have much effect."

“It's obvious that Emin and Adnan are not guilty”

One of our Observers interviews Parvana Persiani, the girlfriend of Adnan Hajidaze and a fellow member of OL!, in Bucharest the day before the Nov. 11 hearing. This is an extract of the video he recorded. You can watch it in full here.



It is strange that mr Onnik

It is strange that mr Onnik doesn't speak about freedom of speech in his own Armenia, where the situation is much more worse. I doubt that a person, living outside Azerbaijan and having a biased approach in the region will be objective and comment things rightly

Exhibit A

In fact, most recently:

Meanwhile, perhaps the commenter should think about how to make his or her country better.

Speaking out is how things change.

And boy, does the Caucasus need that big time.

The irony of it all is that

The irony of it all is that by arresting these two men and and charging them with such a ludicrous crime, they have, in fact, helped the bloggers (to a certain degree) by getting their message out to the world at large. In a world with streaming videos and the ability for anyone to beam information to all corners of the globe, attempting to silence a voice turns a whisper into a scream.

Suppression of opinion.

I agree wholeheartedly. Oppression and suppression of opinions lead to louder screams especially if this is enforced with 'law'. I did not know much about this particular country but from now on my eyes are focused on it. So yes this new technology is helping each person in this new technological generation understand each other.

$41,000 dollar donkeys

$41,000 dollar donkeys sounds like something the Pentagon would do here! Makes you appreciate the free society we have here where we can talk about it without being imprisoned. I haven't been blogging very long but I can see the fear it could create in a totalitarian government. Everyone's views can easily be published for the world to see. It is much harder to censor the entire internet than it has been to control media outlets in the past. My heart goes out to these young men.

Free Speech

Unbelievable that in 2009, people are being imprisoned for exercising their views...draconian sentences at that. Satire and humor have been time-tried methods of conveying one's viewpoints and with the advent of the internet and online video; these types of distribution methods hits the audience of constituents in seconds rather than the weeks and months and imposing a conviction for this "criminal behavior" is a bad omen and the West should immediately place pressure on this government for these actions.
I suggest writing letters and postcards to the United Nations, President or head of state in your country, Congresspersons, World Bank President, ACLU, etc.