The Kazakh authorities demonstrated the extent of their know-how during their brutal crackdown on rioting in Zhanaozen in December 2011, when they cut off the region’s Internet and telecommunications and filtered Twitter and the leading independent news sites throughout the country. This is now legal. Since April 2014, the government has the power to block any website within hours without a court order. It just has to see “harm to persons, society or the state” or “calls for participation in extremist activities, mass disorder or authorized demonstrations.” In such circumstances, it can also disconnect any network or means of communication. Many independent news websites that used to be subjected to intermittent filtering are now permanently blocked. The totally paranoid authorities systematically shoot the messenger whenever there is bad news. In recent months, they blocked Fergananews.com for mentioning inter-communal clashes in a southern village, Kloop.kg for mentioning the presence of Kazakh children in Islamic State training camps, and Meduza.io for investigating pro-Russian separatism in the north. And critical bloggers are increasingly likely to be jailed for a few days or weeks.
Kazakhstan is ranked #160 over 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.
The level of online censorship in Turkmenistan, ranked 178th out of 180 countries in the 2015 press freedom index, is what you would expect from its extremely authoritarian regime. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who has himself called “Arkagad” (Protective Father), protects his people so well from outside influences that barely 10 percent had access to the Internet in 2013. These pioneers surf a highly censored version dubbed the “Turkmenet” and have to show ID to visit an Internet café. State-owned TurkmenTelekom’s monopoly of Internet access makes a connection prohibitively expensive for most people. It also gives the regime full control over online content because TurkmenTelekom owns the only point of access to the World Wide Web and blocks all sites that its masters want censored. The criteria determining what is blocked are secret but they must be very broad because so many sites are inaccessible. They include most independent and foreign news websites and even the main blog platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and other Internet giants are also often blocked.
Turkmenistan is ranked #178 over 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.
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.