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Uzbekistan: The Enemies of the Internet are Known

Symbol of the Day Against Cyber Censorship, Reporters Without Borders

Symbol of the World Day Against Cyber Censorship, Reporters Without Borders

Yesterday, 12 March was the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship. Launched by Reporters Without Borders in 2008, the initiative is intended to promote the idea of Internet without restrictions and accessible to everyone.

Recently Reporters Without Borders have published a list of countries, that are considered to be The Enemies of the Internet. The list includes 10 countries: Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The Internet censorship and persecution of bloggers is usual in these countries. There is also a list of Countries (16) Under Surveillance where freedom of expression online is under risk and there are some attempts of the governments to control the Internet.

The map of Cyber-censorship

The map of Cyber-censorship, march12.rsf.org

Thus, the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship initiative is an attempt to attract attention of civil society to limitation of the freedom of speech in online media.

RSF reports:

The year 2010 firmly established the role of social networks and the Internet as mobilisation and news transmission tools, especially during the Arab spring. New and traditional media have proven to be increasingly complementary. Meanwhile, repressive regimes have intensified censorship, propaganda and repression, keeping 119 netizens in jail. Issues such as national security – linked to the WikiLeaks publications – and intellectual property – are challenging democratic countries’ support to online free speech.

For instance, in Uzbekistan – one of the countries mentioned by RSF as an Enemy of the Internet, all opposition websites and sites that report on real conditions in the country are banned. Among them are not only websites of local and Russian news agencies, such as ferghana.ru, Neweurasia.net, Uzmetronom.com, Eurasianet.org, but also international ones like BBC.com and Alazeera.net.

This is what Uzbekistan-based users see when trying to access neweurasia.net’s URL directly:

Screen-capture when accessing neweurasia.net, image from neweurasia.net

Also, browser requests are often replaced with other unrelated requests (www.msn.com, for example).

On March 11, 2011 RSF published an article on Internet access and online journalism in Uzbekistan. The RSF researchers came to the conclusion:

As long as Uzbek authorities continue to demonstrate a growing interest in controlling the Net, and there is no civil society truly capable of resisting them – even online – or any significant international pressures, prospects look dark for freedom of expression in Uzbekistan’s cyberspace

Cyber censorship in Uzbekistan includes not only news outlets but also social networks, blogging platforms, mail services, etc. For this reason many Uzbek users find tools (proxy-servers) that enable them to securely circumvent this censorship. Many understand that the simplest way to circumvent cyber-censorship is to use a browser proxy. Many are free of charge and allow access to most of the blocked Internet resources through a browser.

The most popular and user-friendly browser proxies are Your Freedom, Tor, HotSpotShield, Psiphon.

More detailed information about circumvention tools, including those mentioned in this message, can be found at sesawe.net .

Video lessons on the configuration and use of proxy-servers with subtitles in different languages are available here.

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