Tajikistan blocks YouTube

Access to the movie-sharing website YouTube has been partially blocked in Tajikistan on Tuesday 10 June. The Tajik government has been blamed for blocking the website but denies all involvement. In 2013 the Tajik authorities blocked YouTube after a movie of a dancing and singing President Emomallii Rahmon was uploaded onto the Internet.
The chairman of the of Tajikistan’s Association of Internet Service Providers, Asomuddin Atoev, announced that YouTube had been partially blocked in Tajikistan. He also said that the Tajik government’s Communications Service might have requested that some Internet providers block YouTube. The chief of the Communications Service, Beg Zuhurov stated that his agency had nothing to do with the situation. Zuhurov blamed the disruption on technical problems.  

International responses

The representative for freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Ms. Dunja Mijatovic, called on the Tajik authorities to ensure that Tajik citizens have unrestricted access to the Internet. “It is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all citizens in Tajikistan have unhindered access to information, offline and online. Any imposed restrictions should be defined by law, be proportionate and based in a court decision”. She added “there is an apparent and urgent need for more transparency regarding this matter as there is no official information available as to why YouTube has been blocked.

The chairman of Tajikistan’s Association of Internet Service Providers, Asomuddin Atoyev, stated that “The blockage has stopped traffic to YouTube from several country’s Internet service providers and only users of Megafon and Telecom Technology Internet have access to the website.” It is, however, sure that megafon and Telecom Technology will also block access to the video sharing-website. Atoyev stated that I was possible that YouTube had been blocked following a written or verbal instruction form the Communication Service Agency. “I suppose that access to YouTube was blocked after any “unfavorable” video had been posted on the website”.

Press freedom

This has been the fourth time since July 2013 that YouTube has been blocked in Tajikistan. In the past two years Tajik authorities have blocked various sites, including Facebook, various Russian news sites and several other Internet resources. Technical malfunction has always been the explanation. Independent media termed the first ban an attempt to stop reports about the governments largely unsuccessful military operation against a local warlord in the Gorno-Badakhshan province, while the second was linked to videos by opposition activists criticizing Emomalii Rahmon.

The media in Tajikistan is subject to many restrictions and Tajikistan ranks as a ‘non-free’ country in the 2013 Freedom in the world rating by US-based watchdog Freedom House. About two million of the country’s population of eight million are internet users, according to the 2012 official figures.   

Sources: Asia-plus, NDTV, Radio Free Europe, RAPSI.

Author: Koen Migchelbrink

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