Uzbek government tightens Internet censorship

Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyayev has always been after farmers, and now after Internet users
The Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers' information and analysis department has been granted new powers to tighten government control over information networks.

A new wording of a statute on the information and analysis department for information systems and telecommunications, a special government unit, has extended its power to control information, including on the Internet, according to an anonymous source at the Uzbek Agency for Communications and Information (UzACI).

The department, set up in September 2007, was tasked to help develop information and telecom technologies and provide information security to government agencies and major state-run enterprises.

Five years later a government resolution granted new powers to this body to tighten control over the content on the Internet and mobile operators.

The new wording of the statute acquired a new paragraph which point to the department's new role.

"[It will conduct] systematic monitoring of the national information space and activities of the media, including modern information and telecom technologies, a satellite system, the Internet, other electronic means of delivering and spreading information, as well as print products."

The revised document granted the department a function to "preserve the integrity of the national information space".

This envisages powers to block websites and to ban foreign print media "threatening the integrity of the national information space", the source said.

Local websites will be subject to stricter censorship as a separate paragraph of the statute provides for the department's involvement in "setting common requirements for information resources on the Internet".

"The .uz zone will become even duller and more uniform as many controlling government agencies' efforts will inevitably lead to this. We can ironically suggest that the appearance of websites will also be regulated soon," the source said.

He also drew attention to a new function "to increase the level of coordination between operators and providers and relevant government bodies".

"This was a justification for the UzACI's requirements set for mobile operators and Internet providers to switch off networks at the first demand of authorities," the source said.

The Cabinet of Ministers' information and analysis department's new powers practically duplicate the powers of the UzACI's centre for monitoring the mass communication sphere and the presidential administration's information and analysis department.

The .uz zone will become even duller and more uniform as many controlling government agencies' efforts will inevitably lead to this. We can ironically suggest that the appearance of websites will also be regulated soon

A source at UzACI
"These three structures practically duplicate one another. The only sense in such duplication, I think, is to make the information sieve as fine as possible and impassable for 'destructive' information," the source at UzACI said.

However, he said, there is a fundamental difference between these three departments.

"Government and presidential analysts act 'in the shadow' and a wider public will never hear about them, while our centre is a public and openly punitive organisation and prosecution experts testify against journalists on behalf of us," the source at UzACI said.

Uznews.net