“Buzz” about blocked Internet in Uzbekistan leaves an inaccessible sting
What’s all the “buzz” about Russian – and some other – websites being blocked by the handfuls in Uzbekistan?
newsurasia just informed that in addition to other websites, Central Asian News Service (ca-news.org) and Russian Informational Agency Regnum (regnum.ru) have recently been blocked in the country: “Uzbek media censors are back at work”.
But it seems the Uzbek censors are back at it not only again – but again, and over again.
Unitel, one of Uzbekistan’s leading GMS operators which is a company of VimpleCom, was founded in 1996 and began its commercial activities one year later. Unitel has served over 3.5 million subscribers since the end 2009. Unitel, “one of the largest mobile operator in Russia and CIS”, initiated “Beeline” services one decade after its launch, in 2006. “Beeline” is a Russian mobile phone service provider.
On August 9th, Fergananews reported that Uzbekistan’s famous mobile operator “Beeline” – which provides both mobile phone services and wireless Internet access – “blocked almost all Russian news sites.” According to Uzbekistan National News Agency (UzA), there are over 7.7 million Internet users in the country – 4.27 of which surf the web via their mobile phones. On August 9th, Fergananews said that other service providers hadn’t cut access to such websites – only “Beeline.”
Some of the main targeted websites include :
Voice of Russia (ruvr.ru)
EurasiaNet says: “On August 9, fergananews.com reported that users of Beeline, a Russian mobile phone service, have been unable to open the Russian news sites gazeta.ru, newsru.com, utro.ru, ruvr.ru, sovsport.ru and an Uzbek news site, uzreport.com.”
EurasiaNet mentions additional sites that have been blocked for the past five years – well before this major Internet block-out:
Fergananews says: “”Sharktelekom” blocked access to the Living Magazine, and other service providers, according to users, they block other known resources, including Rambler, Google.”
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty says that popular websites 12.uz (12.uz) and UzDaily.uz (UzDaily.uz)
were even blocked. RFE/RL continues: “On August 9 it was impossible to view virtually any of the country’s most popular websites, even via mobile devices.”
According to RFE/RL, the inability to access the holy website Islom.uz (islom.uz), operated by Muslim leader Sheikh Muhammad Sodiq Muhammad Yusuf, had Uzbeks upset – especially considering the onset of August welcomed the holy month of Ramadan. But RFE/RL reported on August 12th that the website was up-and-running after 2 days of not being up-and-running.
UzNews reports : “The blackout of dozens of websites began on 9 August. Uznews.net’s editorial office checked the reported blocking of 65 Russian news sites and found that 29 had been blocked including the sites of national TV channels First Channel; Rossiya; NTV and the business channel RBK TV.”
According to UzNews, the long list of websites to fall victim of this censorship rampage include:
UzDaily.uz (UzDaily.uz )
Kommersant Vlast (kommersant.ru/vlast)
Kommersant Dengi (Kommersant Dengi)
Nezavisimaya Gazeta (ng.ru)
Parlamentskaya Gazeta (Parlamentskaya Gazeta)
Radio Rossii (radiorus.ru)
Echo Moskvy (echo.msk.ru)
Deutsche Welle (dw-world.de)
Financial Times, London (ft.com)
New York Times (nytimes.com)
These Internet blackouts overlapped with Uzbekistan’s August 10th Internet festival of the national domain UZ, devoted to the 20th anniversary of independence of Uzbekistan” says UzA. UzA continues: “As of 10 August, the number of active second-level domains in the national zone is over 12,500.” Uzbekistan’s first Internet festival was held in 2001, but since 2007 the festival has been held with only UZ domain addresses, which were initiated in 1995.
What a fantastic way to celebrate the Internet – by blocking it!! This stands for a moment in ‘celebratory media history’. There are serious-serious problems, not only with the blocking of all these informative – and thus necessary for Uzbek’s to access – sites, but moreover with the notion that this is exactly a great example of How Not to Celebrate the World Wide Web.
Though the websites are blocked, many are accessible via proxy servers and anonymizers.
Though there is major censoring going on inside Uzbekistan – the same is not to be said for these websites outside the country. According to Fergananews: “The company does not have its international channels and a license for international traffic, which eliminates the possibility of blocking sites in other countries.” And thank the lucky media stars for that!!