The Republic of Tajikistan has added Twitter to its growing list of forbidden Internet sites. Beginning Monday, citizens of that country will no longer have access to Twitter, one of the world’s most powerful and popular online social networking venues. The government-imposed ban was decreed with no explanation or recourse for Tajikistan’s citizens, leaving them powerless to regain access to the world-popular site.
These limited Internet freedoms are nothing new for Tajikistan citizens. Under the authority of President Emomali Rahmon since 1992, citizens of this ex-Soviet country have been denied access to over 100 Internet sites, many of them social networking sites like Classmates, otherwise known Odnoklassniki, and Facebook. That number will grow to precisely 131 on Monday.
According to Asomiddin Atoyev, head of Tajik Internet providers, the government has produced a comprehensive list of 131 Internet sites to be blocked by Monday. No explanation or criteria have been provided by the government for the bans, leaving citizens and Internet providers to scratch their heads in puzzlement and frustration.
Facebook is no longer restricted in the country, although it was for several weeks earlier this fall. The Tajikistan ban on Facebook, which occurred in November, was intended to hinder the “deluge of lies and insults to . . . government”, according to the country’s communications service. The ban was lifted at the encouragement of the United States in December, although other major forbiddances, such as the impending Twitter ban, continue to block Tajikistan’s Internet users’ access to communication and information.
Social networking sites are not the only type of Internet service to be denied Tajikistan citizens. Several news sites, like Fergana.ru, Centrasia.ru and RIA Novosti, have been off limits to Tajikistan citizens for months, leaving the people unable to obtain some newsworthy information.
Some speculate that this government-controlled ban on popular information and social networking sites is a ploy to silence the voices of Tajikistan citizens as the country’s 2013 presidential election approaches. Nuriddin Karshiboyev, head of the National Assocation of Independent Media of Taj, predicts that the 2013 election will result in even more severe government control of independent media and Internet access for the people of Tajikistan.