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Tajik Government Blocks RFE/RL Website (UPDATED)

Access to the website of RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, has been blocked in Tajikistan since November 30, only days after authorities blocked Facebook inside the country.

Beg Zukhurov, the head of the State Communications Service, confirmed Radio Ozodi’s blockage in an interview with the news portal Asia Plus, saying the authorities acted in response to complaints from a group of concerned citizens who expressed objections about “a series of information agencies that work against the interests of Tajikistan.”

“This is censorship, clear and simple,” said RFE/RL president Steven Korn. “The government wants to shut down free expression, and so they’re attacking Facebook, they’re attacking us, and they’ll attack other sources of independent information as well. This is a violation of the fundamental right to free speech, and governments, the media, the private sector, the human rights community and Tajik citizens should condemn it.”

UPDATE: Access to Radio Ozodi’s website within Tajikistan was restored on December 2, according to internet service providers contacted by RFE/RL. Access to Facebook was restored on December 4, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Several Internet providers in Tajikistan told Ozodi that they received SMS text messages from the Communications Service Thursday evening instructing them to block access to Ozodi. RFE/RL has received unconfirmed reports that official, written instructions have since been issued.

In a widely cited interview with Radio Ozodi on November 26, Zukhurov explained the Facebook blockage was the result of “technical problems.” Zukhurov also asserted that “all discussions on Facebook should be monitored” and raised concerns about Facebook’s tax status in Tajikistan that have been widely ridiculed on social media sites. Zukhurov later stated that blocking access to the popular website had been a necessary response to the demands of “dobrovol’tsi,” a Russian term that translates as “concerned citizens” which was used as a pretext during the Soviet era to justify repressive acts by the government.

The Tajik government has temporarily bannednumerous websites this year, including YouTube, the BBC, Asia Plus and Russian media in connection with unrest in Gorno-Badakhshan.