Uzbekistan: Parliamentarian Calls for Fight Against Internet Subversives
An Uzbek parliamentarian has called for waging a war on "subversive elements" on the Internet, the BBC's Uzbek service has reported.
Abdurashid Zhuraboyev, chairman of the Information and Communications Technology Commitee of the Oliy Mejlis (the lower house of parliament) recently said that an "information war" is being waged against Uzbekistan, so it needs to fight back:
The Internet is filled with defamatory information about our state, government, and even our president. These subversive elements, nasty people, are jeering at our achievements. We must have a planned war against them.
Like other government officials who have also invoked the "Internet enemies," the parliamentarian didn't exactly indicate what he meant by "subversives," says the BBC. Yet analysts believe the concern is a reaction to an increased activism of the Uzbek opposition in the wake of the Arab Spring.
Given how controlled the parliament is in Uzbekistan, Zhuraboyev's sentiments are likely in line with the views of President Islam Karimov, who has affected a support for new technology and free media, even as he cautions against undesirable elements using it against the state.
Internet sites such as fergananews.com, unznews.net, and uzmetronom.com are blocked for many people in Uzbekistan, although they find ways around the filters, sometimes on cell phones or social media sites with reblogging. The government has cracked down on "suspicious content" from cell phone users recently, and required that mobile operators notify authorities of such content, and also obey authorities' orders to switch of the Internet when demanded.
About 7 million people have Internet access out of a population of 28 million in Uzbekistan, making it one of the fastest-growing web-enabled countries.
A libel lawsuit in Paris earlier this year, launched by President Karimov's daughter, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, culminated in acquittal for the French journalist who had called her "a dictator's daughter" -- a phrase that has only been tweeted more since the judge's decision. But inside Uzbekistan, journalists and human rights advocates are routinely tried on vague charges of "slandering the Uzbek people and state" and handed heavy fines.
The US Embassy has been active in recent years in supplying computers and Internet training to schools and universities in Uzbekistan, and the State Department expressed concern at a recent Congressional hearing about heavy restrictions on the Internet in Uzbekistan
But it's not clear what part of the US budget of $30 million for Internet freedom -- if any -- is used to support dissident bloggers in Uzbekistan.