VIENNA, 24 July 2012 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, expressed concern today over the blocking of news.tj, the website of Tajikistan’s Asia-Plus main independent news agency, and called for lifting the ban on this and other Internet resources in the country.
“This is an unfortunate development, as this is not the first time websites are blocked in Tajikistan,” said Mijatović. “The Internet should remain an open source of information in line with OSCE media freedom commitments. Security concerns, however legitimate, cannot be invoked to hinder the free flow of information. There is no security without free media. People must be able to access information from diverse sources, and media must be able to report on issues, even those as sensitive as security.”
Internet service providers reported that they blocked access to news.tj on 23 July, acting on an instruction issued by the Communications Service, a government agency. News.tj was blocked for several days already in June.
“I also regret that tkjnews.com, zvezda.ru, centrasia.ru and maxala.org remain blocked and have been inaccessible to Internet users in Tajikistan since early March,” Mijatović said. “The authorities should ensure that the Internet is not restricted, and that news.tj and other blocked websites become accessible again as soon as possible.”
Reacting to the recent announcement by the Communications Service about the creation of a special commission to track down “insulting” and “slanderous” online content, the Representative expressed hope that these plans would not aim at filtering Internet content.
“As I wrote in my letter to Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi on 19 July, my Office stands ready to provide the Tajik authorities with any expertise on this and other issues related to freedom of the media, including the Internet,” Mijatović said.