Uzbekistan Adds Wikipedia to Internet Blacklist
Uzbek-language articles on Wikipedia – the popular, crowd-sourced online encyclopedia – have suddenly become inaccessible inside Uzbekistan, regional news outlets are reporting. Almost 8,000 entries in the Uzbek language appear to be blocked, reports Ferghana.ru. Visitors trying to access the site are redirected to MSN.com, a news aggregator operated by Microsoft. Wikipedia pages in other languages appear to be unaffected. RIA Novosti reports Tashkent has blocked the page in the past. The sudden change is unlikely to surprise Internet users in Uzbekistan, where authorities have blocked hundreds of websites, including EurasiaNet.org, for years. According to statistics cited by Ferghana.ru, Wikipedia is the tenth most visited site in Uzbekistan. The agency reports that over 8,000 people are registered to contribute Uzbek-language content.Uzbekistan has some of the most draconian Internet restrictions on the planet. Paris-based press-freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders calls the country an “Internet enemy.” Nevertheless, Internet usage is booming. In August 2011, according to official statistics, 7.7 million of Uzbekistan’s 28 million people were online, up from only 137,000 ten years earlier. What’s more, connection speeds almost doubled in the preceding year. The rapid growth has contributed to fears that Uzbekistan’s security agencies use online forums to spy on critics and spread disinformation. Last fall, Uzbekistan and three more countries notorious for putting a tight squeeze on journalists – China, Russia and Tajikistan – proposed an Internet “code of conduct” at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The four called on signatories to curb “the dissemination of information that incites terrorism, secessionism, or extremism, or that undermines other countries’ political, economic and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment.”
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.