Uzbekistan in the Cyber-Trenches

by Nathan Hamm on 4/24/2007 · 1 comment

blocked.jpgYesterday, RFE/RL reported on the Uzbek government’s restriction of access to the internet. As many readers already know, certain websites such as those for Erk and Birlik as well as Ferghana.ru and Centrasia.ru have been blocked for years. Foreign news websites are more recent additions, and small news outlets and at least a couple blogs have been blocked in the latest wave of blocks.

In the wake of Andijon, Uzbekistan’s government claimed the country was victim to information attacks from foreign media and local collaborators. Because it sees itself as in an information war to protect Uzbekistan, it makes sense that it is trying to fire a few salvos back.

Daniel Kislov, the Moscow-based chief of ferghana.ru, says the Uzbek authorities who apparently see some websites as their political enemies have not only barred those sites in Uzbekistan, they have also tried to establish their own websites to counter the independent flow of information.

Easily accessible, multilingual sites such as pressuz.info or gorizont.uz cover domestic and international news from the government’s standpoint.

“[The Uzbek authorities] think they are taking part in some kind of information war,” Kislov said. “If it is so, this war has been announced against us or against the whole enlightened world by the authorities themselves.”

As worried as the Uzbek government might be about its image, it is not doing so great a job burnishing it with these websites.

The report also mentions that Uzbek authorities are particularly worried about regional news. They do not, for example, want citizens of Uzbekistan to hear about thousands of protesters calling for the president’s dismissal in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. This makes me wonder how long it will be before Uzbekistan’s internet police start limiting access to blogging services. Kazakhstan, and to a lesser extent, Kyrgyzstan, both have thriving blogospheres, and both discuss political issues and current affairs quite openly. Can it be too long before Uzbek officials block access to LiveJournal, WordPress.com, and Blogspot to protect their citizens from these dangerous information warriors?

Registan.net, by the way, is available to readers in Uzbekistan through a syndicated LiveJournal page.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

CityGuy April 24, 2007 at 11:15 pm

I do not think this is true of the the actual political situation in Uzbekistan. One is certain to come across a very wide range of obstacles that prevent you from drawing reational conclusions given the obsession government officials feel for their posts. The are never confident of their own worthiness for what they are granted by the President and do whatever they can in order to prevent the Head of the State and his Security agents from running into what they are actually up to. In fact these are the people, very small in portion though, dirtening not only the society and the country but also its international image worldwide. THEY should be removed first and ever!

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