Tag Archives: internet

Tajikistan Introduces Controversial “Ethics Code” For Internet Users

odobnomaseAs Tajikistan adopts ethical guidelines for the users of internet services and personal electronic devices, netizens fear that he authorities might use the document to control free expression.

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“Ethics Code for an e-Citizen” Adopted in Tajikistan

Things are getting interesting in Tajikistan as its IT experts and government officials make innovative yet naive attempts to reign in political discussion on the internet. In the past, the authorities simply blocked websites they found threatening (which included Facebook and YouTube). Now, they have adopted an “Ethics Code for an e-Citizen”, partly to prevent increasingly tech-savvy Tajikistani netizens from posting “bad” content or denounce those who do so.

The document was adopted [ru] in Dushanbe, on October 11. According to a handful of media reports, it was put together by a “group of experts” from the Tajik president’s office, state-run telecommunications agency (whose director summoned Mark Zuckerberg to a meeting last year), association of national internet service providers, association of national mobile service providers, a group representing independent mass media (well, actually only some of them), and a couple of NGOs. Apparently, Internews, Open Society Institute (OSI) Assistance Foundation Tajikistan, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) supported (and probably financed) the development of the ethics code. Although these organizations are certainly aware of the proper way of developing such documents, the public was not involved in any meaningful way in producing or discussing the ethics code. (To be fare, about 15 days before the approval of the document, one of the NGOs involved in developing the ethics code published [ru] a draft on its website (which does not have too many visitors) and requested feedback).

Radio Ozodi (Tajik service of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), one of the few media that took an interest in the document, reports [tj] that the ethics code aims at “preventing harassment, offense, slander, provocation, dissemination of immoral images and recordings, agitation and propaganda of terrorism, and other unacceptable activities in virtual space”. Continue reading

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Why Does Tajikistan Block Websites?

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

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Tajikistan Blocks Facebook and Independent News Websites

On March 3, Internet providers in Tajikistan cut local access to Facebook, the social-networking service, along with another four independent news websites. The blocking was ordered by the state-run communications agency, which cited technical reasons. However, media and analysts suggested that the move reflected the authorities’ determination to limit the space for political expression at home and control the flow of uncensored information from outside (www.news.tj, March 3, 5).

The block on Facebook echoes measures taken by a number of other restrictive regimes, including China, Iran and Pakistan. Analyst Saimuddin Dustov blames the development in Tajikistan on Russian media outlets, which portray social networks as sources of unrest. Despite the limited Internet penetration in Tajikistan, Facebook’s popularity has recently been on the increase there. The platform has become an outlet for expressing frustration with the government. In addition, the Islamic Revival Party (IRPT), Tajikistan’s largest and most influential opposition group, as well as a number of opposition movements in exile have actively used Facebook to mobilize support. Local analyst Zafar Abdullayev believes that the authorities imposed a ban on the social network because they began seeing it as a source of political threat (www.news.tj, March 3, 13).

The other four websites that have been blocked are Russian-language news platforms. The article that appears to have triggered the blocking was published on a Russia-based website, Zvezda, on March 1. The article, entitled “Tajikistan on the Eve of a Revolution,” analyzes political and security dynamics in the country based on what it alleges are the minutes of Rahmon’s meeting with key government officials on November 24, 2011. A scanned copy of the minutes in Tajik, marked as secret and supposedly signed by the president, is also published, without any indication of how the document was obtained.
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Tajikistan: Facebook Users Probe Social Networking Possibilities

An interesting article by David Trilling from the EurasiaNet.org (July 7, 2011).

Tajikistan: Facebook Users Probe Social Networking Possibilities

This spring, when 15 young activists gathered outside Tajikistan’s state electricity supplier during an energy crisis to “lay flowers for the dead electricity,” they anticipated spending a night in jail. But the country’s first documented “flash mob,” a protest that lasted less than 30 minutes on April 8, passed peacefully. To the organizers’ surprise, it had an unintended effect, thrusting into popular consciousness something exciting and new – Facebook.

The local press covered the event in detail, describing how the social networking platform brought the demonstrators together. Though some Tajiks had long embraced Facebook as a tool for staying in touch with friends, the mini-protest became an advertisement for some of the site’s broader networking features. Russian keep-in-touch websites like Odnoklassniki.ru and VKontakte.ru are still prevalent in Tajikistan, but Facebook, which supports Russian language but not Tajik, is growing quickly in popularity because, unlike those other platforms, it helps likeminded people find each other, says Alexander Sodiqov, a local analyst.
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