Yeah, Hillary and I Talk
Yep. That Hillary. We had a nice conversation yesterday about internet freedom. Turns out that Hill and I are pretty close on some things, like freedom of press and freedom of information. And we certainly like the internet.
Yesterday, I mentioned the American Center in this post. There are a few American Centers around Azerbaijan, in Gəncə and Xaçmas, and we all tuned in to the US Embassy website to watch Hill give her speech about internet freedom. The local Transparency International office came by for a while, too. There were some moments of panic in the room at the library when the sound wasn’t coming in but, once Hillary showed up on stage, she came in loud and clear. You can check out her speech here.
We had about 20 people hanging out, listening to the speech. I think it was probably a little difficult because many of the words were over their heads, and the idea of internet freedom means something different to everyone. To Azerbaijanis, it could really mean an opening of media channels, where freedom of press is expanded. To Americans it means Intellectual Property. Azerbaijanis aren’t really concerned about Intellectual Property. You can tell by the proliferation of things like cracked Microsoft programs and the plethora of burned DVDs and CDs that are sold for a Manat a piece. Yesterday my host brother bought a Madonna CD for one Manat and it contained nine Madonna albums! IP might not be high on their priority list. Intellectual Property is an important concept which I favor; maybe not as strongly as others, but it’s rather important for long-term economic sustainability. For a country like Azerbaijan, and other developing countries where democracy and basic media rights are still growing, the emphasis on press freedom and the use of the internet for transparency in governmental and corporate activities is an even more important topic to approach.
Kudos to Hillary, however, for including a dig at Saudi Arabia in her speech. That doesn’t happen too often.
Update: Sorry this was previously posted rather sloppily. Links, pictures and better grammar are now included.