Uzbekistan ISPs Unblock Several Online News and NGO Sites

NetBlocks’ internet measurement data, taken between Friday 10 and Saturday 11 May, shows that ISPs in Uzbekistan have unblocked several websites belonging to news outlets and NGOs.

The previously banned websites include NGOs Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, as well as foreign and local news sites Deutsche-Welle, Voice of America, Fergana, EurasiaNet and Centre1.

NetBlocks said that BBC Uzbek was not blocked during the study; Uzbeks have been and are able to access it through the primary BBC website.

The data, which was taken from a survey consisting of 2,000 network measurements from 20 vantage points across Uzbekistan, covers eight ISPs in the country.

However, not all of the ISPs included in the survey have restored access to Radio Ozodlik, the local media outlet for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

NetBlocks says that access to the cited websites had been restricted in the country for several years before their restoration on Saturday.

News archives from February 2018 suggest that there have been temporary unblockings in the past.

Komil Allamjonov, the head of Uzbekistan’s Information and Mass Communication Agency, announced the government’s decision to restore access to the sites via Facebook, a platform that has also previously been blocked in the country.

He said that “certain technical issues” had been resolved in order to reinstate access to the sites.

The international community welcomed the developments, and Harlem Désir, the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, said in a Tweet that he had previously raised the matter with Uzbekistan authorities.

However, some were more skeptical of the unblockings. London-based Uzbek activist Alisher Ilkhamov posted on Facebook that it was “too early” to celebrate, considering that some news sites remain inaccessible.

Ilkhamov said that partial unblockings may be a “policy of divide and conquer,” with the aim of tearing apart the journalistic community. “If the lucky ones remain silent about those less fortunate, then that policy will have been a success,” he wrote.

In the past week, Central Asia has been a focal point for internet access and censorship. On Thursday 9 May, Kazakhstan’s Victory Day, ISPs in the country started to implement social media blocks that affected Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Telegram.

The blocks appeared to be the result of dissident groups calling for demonstrations to take place on Victory Day, but after several hours, access was restored.