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Central Asian Websites Unite To Protest Internet Censorship In Uzbekistan


Several websites in Central Asia have launched what they call an "unlimited campaign" against Internet censorship to protest the increasingly restricted access in Uzbekistan to independent websites.

The independent websites fergana.ru and uznews.net and an online news bulletin, "Uzbekistan's Civil Society," have placed a special emblem on their homepages that carries the inscription "This Site Is Blocked in Uzbekistan."


The websites, which have been blocked in Uzbekistan for years, are calling on other websites filtered and otherwise banned by Uzbek authorities to join the anticensorship campaign "to demonstrate how many news websites are inaccessible in the country."


Fergana.ru writes that since the popular uprising in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon in May 2005, "all sources of independent information on the Internet have been blocked" by Uzbek authorities.


"Websites for opposition parties and movements, as well as independent media distributing alternative information about events in Uzbekistan, have all been banned," fergana.ru wrote.


Authorities in Uzbekistan have long been criticized by media-rights groups for restricting Uzbek Internet users' access to the web by blocking sites, controlling Internet service providers (ISP), and even raiding Internet cafes.


Uzbekistan has been placed -- along with notoriously media-unfriendly countries such as Myanmar, North Korea, and Turkmenistan -- on the list of the world's greatest "Internet Enemies." The list is produced by the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.


Although the number of ISPs in Uzbekistan has increased in the past decade, media-rights activists say all the ISPs operate under the government's tight control.


Internet cafes, too, are subject to regular checkups by officials. Many Internet cafes in Uzbekistan have reportedly been required to put signs up warning Internet users that "access to pornographic and political websites is prohibited."

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