In light of Muslim unrest in Tajikistan, national government authorities there have restricted access to the three main news providers, avesta.tj, ferghana.ru, and centrasia.ru. When interviewed, Avesta’s editor-in-chief Zafar Abdullayev criticized the political move:
“This is a restriction on freedom of speech. We are trying to objectively report on the unrest in the east but clearly some officials do not like this.”
Although western news sources mention that the blacklisted sites directly criticized the ruling party, the government seems to cite encouragement of violent Islamic militants as the reason for taking them down. Since the Tajik civil war ended in 1997, unrest still remains prevalent in the country that’s 98% Muslim. Last month, violent stirrings cropped up, including an attack in the Rasht Valley which left 25 people dead. Many are now using domestic occurrences such as these to explain the government’s swift action to block any online content that may contribute to the unrest.
So far, Herdict’s profile on Tajikistan has not received any inaccessibility reports on the three news sites. However, news sources indicate that the government just took them down today. This is not the first time that the Tajikistani government has exercised authoritarian control over the Internet. In 2006, the Tajik Agency for the Regulation of Communications shut down ferghana.ru right before the presidential election. With a history of censorship, followers of the continuing violence remain watchful of the government’s attitude toward other sites that are still accessible within Tajikistan.