Internet use continues to grow in Uzbekistan despite government obstacles

Jan 4, 2012
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Despite tight government reins on the Internet, citizens of Uzbekistan are coming online in increasing numbers, according to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Citing a year-end report by the state communications agency, the news service says that of the country’s 28 million residents, almost 8 million were registered Internet users in 2011. Twenty percent had access to mobile Internet.

While most Internet traffic is on general-interest and entertainment sites, IWPR said there has been increasing interest in social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the local network, Muloqot.uz.

Alexander Suchkov, editor of an online magazine, told IWPR, “Numerous blogs have appeared … in which young people talk about modern Uzbekistan. I know these young enthusiasts, and they obviously want to change things.” He added, “The Internet made significant progress in Uzbekistan in 2011, and we can see it really has a good future.”

Uzbekistan has a dismal track record for media freedom. For the past five years, democracy watchdog Freedom House has given the country its lowest possible ranking for independence of its media. Access to many foreign news sites, including Radio Free Europe and IWPR, is blocked within the country.

Despite an increasingly optimistic outlook, IWPR expressed several concerns about the state of the Internet in Uzbekistan, including its high price – around 25 dollars a month—and the severe limits on the topics open for discussion. According to the article, the popular discussion site, arbuz.com was forced to close by its owners after more than a decade “in the interest of users’ safety”. The article also mentioned cases of arrests by authorities using IP addresses to track down commenters discussing the social-media driven protests in Africa and the Middle East.


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Transitions Online

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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