On November 26, Internet providers in Tajikistan cut local access to Facebook, the social-networking website, citing an order from the state-run communications agency. The organization initially suggested that the ban was imposed due to “technical problems.” On November 28, however, the agency’s head announced that he had ordered to restrict access to Facebook in response to “public pressure.”
Beg Zukhurov told journalists that the website was “full of filth and slander,” claiming that “hundreds” or “respected individuals” were calling him “daily” with complaints about Facebook and requests to ban the website. He also alleged that some users in Tajikistan were paid lavishly for posting critical comments on Facebook, without clarifying who might be providing funding for such an effort. Over the next several days, Zukhurov modified his explanation, asserting that a group of anonymous “volunteers” had requested to ban the “slanderous” website in Tajikistan. Apparently, the official was referring to a volunteer-run Internet watchdog which, as he had announced in July, the authorities were planning to set up in order to “track down and identify” individuals posting comments that might be deemed insulting to the country’s leadership.
On November 29, Internet providers also blocked access to the website of Radio Ozodi (Ozodi.org), the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik service. Over the last several years, the website has been one of the most popular Tajik-language sources of independent news and analysis in the country. The authorities did not offer any explanation for the restriction. However, journalists and experts were nearly unanimous in proposing that the resource was taken down in retribution for its posting of unedited interviews with Zukhurov on the Facebook ban. These interviews demonstrated the official’s incompetence and poor understanding of Facebook, leading the country’s Internet users and bloggers to ridicule him. Continue reading