Ever since the riots in the eastern city of Andijan in 2005, Islam Karimov’s autocratic regime has done everything possible to incorporate the Internet into the absolute control it exercises over the traditional media – creating state agencies, passing laws and acquiring cutting-edge technology to ensure that the Internet poses no threat. Since 2011, all commercial Internet Service Providers have to go through state-owned Uztelecom to access the Internet, which makes blocking websites even simpler. Most independent, opposition and human rights sites cannot be accessed in Uzbekistan and do not show up in the national search engine, www.uz. Access to censorship circumvention tools is also increasingly blocked. The Commission of Experts on Information and Mass Communications hunts for potentially “negative or destructive” content. And the regime does not worry about legal niceties when it wants to silence bloggers or online journalists. Several languish in appalling conditions in prison on trumped-up charges of drug trafficking or corruption. Uznews.net, a leading news website based abroad, had to shut down in December 2014 after its editor’s email was hacked and confidential information was used to smear independent journalists and put them at risk.
Uzbekistan is ranked #166 over 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.