- Elton John blasts Russia’s anti-gay laws during Moscow concert
- U.N.: Afghanistan slow to enforce law protecting women
- Heart cancels SeaWorld concert after ‘Blackfish’ documentary
- South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower American flag for Nelson Mandela
- South Africans hold day of prayer for Nelson Mandela
- Mandela not on life support in final hours, friend says
- Ukraine protesters topple, decapitate Lenin statue in Kiev
- Kim Jong-un’s uncle removed from North Korean state documentary
- Thailand crisis deepens as opposition quits Parliament
- Campbell Soup apologizes for SpaghettiOs’ Pearl Harbor tweet
Uzbeks bristle under regime’s Web scrutiny
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — When Samir logs on to the Internet, he has to disguise his Web address to avoid official propaganda and protect himself from retaliation from his own government.
“In order to visit all the sites that I want, I use [Web proxies]. … All sites that write the truth and promote debate are blocked. Without a [proxy], all I can access is state news, full of joy and happiness,” said Samir, who like others interviewed for this article asked to be identified only by a first name.
Now, even the proxies are becoming increasingly difficult to access in his native Uzbekistan, a Central Asian country where information is so tightly controlled that the government is ranked among the world’s worst offenders of Internet freedom.
Freedom House, the international watchdog group that monitors government abuse, declared Uzbekistan “not free” in a report this year. Its Freedom on the Net project ranked the country at 77 on a 100-point scale, with zero indicating countries with the most open access to the Internet and 100 as the worst.
Observers even dismissed the government’s latest public relations campaign to promote foreign investment in Uzbekistan.
The state-run Information and Communication Technologies Week in Tashkent, the capital, featured presentations on topics such as Internet journalism and social networking in Uzbekistan. The exposition drew software developers, Internet providers and Web-solution companies from India, Israel, South Korea, Spain, Russia and the United States.
However, observers said the exhibition halls were filled with students and government employees who were pressured to attend in order to pump up the number of visitors.
“Our university is located near the main exhibition complex in Tashkent,” said Feruza, a journalism student at the National University of Uzbekistan. “Every time the government makes any exhibition, our dean forces us to go because they need a lot of people to show that they are popular — but it was not interesting.”
About 30 percent of Uzbekistan’s 28 million citizens use the Internet, according to the U.N. Broadband Commission for Digital Development. That percentage is higher than neighboring Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan but less than Kazakhstan, where 45 percent of the population of 5.5 million surf the Web.
Uzbeks say the government often prevents them from taking full advantage of their Internet access.
“I had my own blog called Friend.uz,” said Mikhail, a blogger in Tashkent whose site hosted criticisms of Uzbek bureaucracy.
“It has existed for several years, but in June, I was summoned to the police. I was told that I published a post in my blog that offended Uzbekistan,” he said. “Within a month, I was called in for questioning and threatened with jail. As a result, I was forced to close the site.”
Aside from offending the government, Internet users also have come under pressure for posting “pornographic” material, but some say that charge is used merely as an excuse to clamp down on sites the authorities dislike.
Dinar, a housewife in Tashkent, said she was targeted because of a forum discussing relationship issues.
“I created a forum for women, which has been popular,” said Dinar, 32. “I was summoned to the police and was told that one of the topics of my forum was dedicated to sex, and that it falls within the scope of spreading pornography. I was threatened with jail, but in the end I managed to pay a bribe” and was released.
By Brahma Chellaney
- Obama: Hole U.S. 'digging out of' requires billions more in unemployment benefits
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- Sen. Rand Paul pushes 'economic freedom zones' for Detroit
- Redskins' season hits bottom with Chiefs blowout
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- FENNO: Mike Shanahan's empty words no salve to free-falling Redskins
- U.S. debt jumps a record $328 billion tops $17 trillion for first time
- Sen. Rand Paul: 'I am seriously thinking about' running for president in 2016
- Legalizing illegal immigrants is the solution to Obamacare: Democrat
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Al Maurer provides a common sense, conservatarian, Constitutional conservative perspective from the battleground state of Colorado
Film Reviews and Articles by Kevin Williams
"Critical thinking is thinking about your thinking while you're thinking in order to make your thinking better." - Dr. Richard Paul
Go beyond tourism's "top 10" bus tour destinations with Susan McKee as she explores the varied history, culture, food, and gardens, of the world.
Let it snow
White House pets gone wild!