Tajikistan: Dushanbe Web Regulator Creating “Preposterous Impediments” | EurasiaNet.org

Posted: January 26, 2013 in Censorship, Confrontation, Economy and Resources, Human Rights, International, Journalism, Language, Law, Politics, Relations, Tajikistan

Something strange happened in Tajikistan over a late December weekend. On a Friday evening, the government’s communications agency ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) to block 131 websites for “technical” reasons. Then suddenly, a few days later, the ISPs were told, in effect; ‘never mind.’

Internet users in Tajikistan are getting accustomed to such erratic behavior from the state communications agency and its mercurial boss, Beg Zukhurov. For example, Zukhurov blocked Facebook twice in 2012, supposedly because he was upset that Tajiks were using the social network to criticize Tajikistan’s long-serving president. He’s also overseen the repeated blocking of Tajikistan’s leading independent news agency, Asia-Plus, as punishment for its critical reporting. But the December list appeared to be a random compilation of sites that included, besides Twitter and several popular Russian social networks, lots of obscure entertainment portals that few in Tajikistan care about.

“Among the pages to be banned [were] personal pages of unknown individuals,” said the head of one Tajik ISP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “More than 70 percent of them are local music and video portals. Obviously, the list is composed by a spider-bot, which followed an absurd algorithm. Public officials have once again proven their illiteracy and none of them will comment on this foolish order.”

Zukhurov’s explanations of his actions often border on the farcical: Facebook, for example, was blocked for “prophylactic maintenance” last March, other sites for “technical reasons,” and phone access in Tajikistan’s restive east was severed for a month because a bullet, Zukhurov claimed, had sliced a wire. IT service providers contend that Zukhurov has no legal power to order blocks. (Only courts have that authority). But providers follow his orders out of fear of official harassment, such as a sudden visit from the tax inspector.

via Tajikistan: Dushanbe Web Regulator Creating “Preposterous Impediments” | EurasiaNet.org.

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