PRAGUE -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has condemned a government-imposed block on its website in Tajikistan as a flagrant obstruction of its news operations and an assault on media freedom.
The block has caused its Tajik language service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, to lose between 30,000 and 35,000 visits to its website every day since it was first detected on November 29.
The block is implemented via a Unified Electronic Communications Switching Center (USC) that the government authorized by presidential decree in January 2016, and which is located within the state-owned telecommunications provider, Tojiktelecom. The decree requires all telephone and Internet providers to buy service from the USC exclusively, affording the government singular control over Internet access and traffic and mobile applications inside the country.
The embassies of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the United States, and the EU Delegation in Dushanbe issued a joint statement on December 10 in response to the blackout, expressing their concern over “the periodic blockage of news sites, including Asia-Plus and Radio Ozodi,” and social networks in Tajikistan.
Tajikistan has blocked RFE/RL’s and other websites and social networks previously, without official explanation, in apparent response to content authorities find disagreeable.
But Abbas Djavadi, RFE/RL Regional Director for Central Asia, said “the current blockage is more comprehensive than before, and its impact on our audiences’ access to independent news coverage is greater,” adding “so far we have no evidence that Tajik authorities are responding to the international criticism this has produced.”
About RFE/RL’s Tajik Service
RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, is one of the most trusted media outlets in Tajikistan, connecting citizens and their local leaders in support of pluralism and good governance. Radio Ozodi has Tajikistan’s most popular YouTube channel (530,000 subscribers; 187 million video views in 2018) and Facebook page (160,000 followers; 14 million video views in 2018), as well as a Internet presence (18.8 million visits and 56 million page views to ozodi.tj in 2018).
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 34 million people in 25 languages and 20 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. RFE/RL recorded 2.6 billion combined views across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram in FY2018. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.