DUSHANBE, August 3, 2016, Asia-Plus -- Communications service agency says it has nothing to do with news websites blockage.

Ina report released at a news conference in Dushanbe, Jonibek Dadomatov, the head of the department for communications regulation at the Communications Service under the Government of Tajikistan, said on August 3 that they have nothing to do with blockage of news websites in the country.

“The Communications Service can block access to the websites only on the basis of ruling of the Supreme Court and in some cases on the law enforcement agencies’ request for the purpose of preventing spread of information which could pose threat to the country’s security,” Dadomatov said.   

He said the communications service agency “has not given any orders to block any news sites.”

Dadomatov suggested that the issue might have been caused by technical problems faced by the Internet service providers themselves.

“To-date, more than 100 sites propagating violence and pornography have been blocked in Tajikistan,” Dadomatov said, adding that that the communications service agency had not given any instructions to block news websites.

Meanwhile, various news sites, including websites run by the Asia-Plus news agency, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service and the Ozodagon news agency, have been inaccessible in Tajikistan since 10 May.  Access to the website of the Avesta news agency has been blocked recently.   

Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile operators reportedly received order on May 10 and 11 to block the access to the sites of Asia-Plus, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, Ozodagon and some other news websites.  The State Communications Service, however, stated that they were not behind the access issues.

Asia-Plus has repeatedly applied to the communications service agency asking to clarify the reason for blocking the websites, but officials at the communications service agency said they have nothing to do with the Internet blockage.

As of May 11, the Asia-Plus website could only be accessed by using proxy servers.  

The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) has formally condemned countries that block or limit citizens’ Internet access.  The 47-member U.N. council on July 1 passed a resolution that reaffirms and expands its previous stances upholding Internet rights across the globe, noting, “The same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression.”

Meanwhile, Tajik authorities are seeking tighter control over Internet traffic.  We will recall that President Emomali Rahmon on January 25 signed a bill on the creation of a central communications hub in Tajikistan, a move critics say is meant to tighten government control over the Internet and cellular communications.  The law requires all mobile operators and Internet providers to provide their services to clients only via the Single Communication Nexus.  The hub is reportedly needed to improve “national and information security.”

Rahmon signed the bill two months after Tajik lawmakers passed legislation allowing the authorities to block the Internet and telephone system during “counterterrorism operations” in the country.