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Tajik Authorities Bow to Pressure and Unblock Websites

Written by on Thursday, 12 October 2006
Media and Internet, Tajikistan

Tajikistan’s Ministry of Communications lifted the ban on several websites blocked in early October “in the interests of information security”.

Speaking to the radio “Ozodi” on October 11, Davron Olimov, an official in the information regulation agency, said the Ministry of Communications had to revise its decision because it had drawn many complaints.

“The Ministry of Communications received many complaints from non-governmental organizations and international organizations,” Davron Olimov said. “Minister then summoned our director and then they reopened several websites”.

Immediately after the official announcement, all ISPs in Tajikistan unblocked three websites, www.centrasia.ru, www.arianastorm.ru and www.ferghana.ru. The two remaining websites –
www.charogiruz.ru and www.tajikistantimes.ru – run by well-known dissident Dodojon Atovulloev, have not yet been unblocked.

The five Russian-language websites were blocked in early October. Ministry of Communications demanded that Tajikistan’s 12 Internet service Providers (ISPs) “filter and block access to websites on the Internet that aim to undermine the state’s policies in the sphere of information”.

Many observers and political experts quickly viewed the move in the context of the upcoming presidential ballot. They argued that the government was shutting down alternative sources of information ahead of the election. Their arguments were further supported by the government’s demand that the printing of the Adolat, official newspaper of the Democratic Party, be suspended.

Pressure exerted by both local and international organizations made the authorities reverse their decision. The move was also prompted by the arrival of international observers to monitor the upcoming ballot. OSCE’s Organization for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) deployed its observation mission in Tajikistan last week. Aware of the initial reaction to the cutoff on the part of international watchdogs, Tajik authorities decided to unblock access to “harmful” websites, at least until the end of the election process.

By reversing their decision, Tajik authorities sent an important message to the international community. In particular, they reconfirmed that the incumbent Emomali Rakhmonov is determined to be re-elected for another term through the procedure of free and fair election with its legitimacy unquestioned by international observers. Besides, the reversal showed the authorities’ resolve to avoid confrontation with the international community when possible.

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