Ferghana.Ru news agency and other regional and international Internet projects continue the campaign against Internet censorship. A group of independent web-editions launched a new project ShameList.Ru not long ago.
A mere compilation of facts and episodes is not what we are after. We aim to draw attention of general public to the problem of “filtered-out” web-sites. We aim - we hope - to involve in the discussion regional governments and parliaments and international organizations. First and foremost, we hope to attract the international organizations directly involved in development of Internet in the region as sponsors of the regional programs.
Here is an open letter to the UN resident coordinator on behalf of all “filtered-out” web-projects. We urge the UN division to initiate a public discussion of the problem of censorship and hope for an official answer.
The date of the publication was chosen with care. Exactly a year ago, on April 14, 2004, the authorities of Uzbekistan closed the national division of Soros Foundation, Open Society Institute. The Soros Foundation was one of the major sponsors of development of Internet-projects in Uzbekistan. The gear provided by this organization is still used in Uzbek colleges and organizations.
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From: Daniil A. Kislov
Ferghana.Ru news agency
To: Mr. Fikret Ackura
Representative/UN Resident Coordinator
Dear Mr. Ackura,
Respectfully inform you that a group of the leading web-sites on Uzbekistan and Central Asia - UzLand.Info, Ferghana.Ru, CentrAsia.Org, Tribune-Uz.Info, and FreeUz.Org - organized a joint campaign Against Internet Censorship.
It is common knowledge that authoritarian regimes and specifically Central Asian ones undertake attempts to put independent informational sources under control. Internet media outlets are in the forefront of the struggle democratic communities and free individuals wage on the state systems aiming to suppress dissent and freedom of expression.
Complaints from our readers numerous, we are compiling a list of all episodes of blocked access to Internet-resources in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
We set up http://www.shamelist.ru within the framework of Against Internet Censorship where visitors are able to mention all episodes and facts of censorship and unavailability of web-sites including the most popular ones in the region like:
Monitoring the situation, we intend to make our findings available to state, public, and nongovernment structures involved in Internet activities in the mentioned countries in the hope to ameliorate the state of affairs.
According to what information we have compiled, for more than three years already Uzbek provider UzSciNet has systematically and regularly blocked certain web resources, restricting access to relevant information for thousands of citizens of Uzbekistan.
UzSciNet as you know was established within the framework of Project UNDP UZB99/016 “Establishment of potential for development of Internet technologies and their proliferation in Uzbekistan”.
Geography of the provider’s clients is best described by an excerpt from its own web-site, “These days, services provided by UzSciNet are used by National University, Institute of Finances, Technical University, Institute of Railroad Engineers, Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Mechanization Engineers, Economic University… UzSciNet provides access to Internet to medical establishments, libraries, nongovernment organizations all over the Republic of Uzbekistan.”
Restriction of access to Internet on the part of UzSciNet is a gross violation of Article 19 of the Human Rights Declaration, “Every person has the right to expression of his or her convictions and free expression; the right implies freedom of looking for, getting, and spreading information and ideas by all means regardless of state borders.”
Actions of UzSciNet collide with Article 67, Chapter XV of the Constitution of Uzbekistan and laws “On professional activities of journalists” and “On the media” dealing with unacceptability of censorship in Uzbekistan. They also collide with regional and international legislation.
Project UNDP UZB99/016 was set up with the help from international organizations promoting civil freedoms:
NATO Science Committee,
UN Development Program,
Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation).
Ordered by UzSciNet administration, restrictions imposed on access to a certain category of popular web-sites transform UzSciNet into a flawed structure operating against basic principles of Internet.
UNDP UZB99/016 technical infrastructure blueprint (see picture) studied and independent experts consulted with, this initiative group confirms that UNDP UZB99/016 has its own independent Internet-channel via Virtual Silk Highway of the NATO Science Committee. It confirms the suspicion that it is exactly the project administration and not some “third forces” that blocks access to Uzland.info, Ferghana.ru, Centrasia.org, Tribune-uz.info, Freeuz.org, and other web-sites.
Bad luck or technical problems impeding access to the mentioned web-sites are ruled out. Their visitors from other countries and with other providers never encounter any difficulties.
We are convinced that restriction of access to independent Internet-sources on the part of UzSciNet taints the repute of sponsors of the whole project.
We intend to initiate a broad discussion, hopefully with all involved parties participating. We urge you, Mr. Ackura, to offer your opinion of the problem in general and on activities of UzSciNet specifically since it is the UN’s regional partner and beneficiary. If necessary, evidence of Internet censorship will be made available.
participant of Against Internet Censorship campaign
Ferghana.Ru news agency editor-in-chief
director of Central Asian Information Center
Moscow, April 13, 2005