Uzbeks visiting the state-run broadcaster’s official website on 30 January got a surprise: a short message reading, “The news you spread are lies!” The proclamation was the product of hackers who disabled the site then posted the message, RFE/RL reported.
A group calling itself “Clone Security” took credit for the attack on the website of the National Television and Radio Company, which coincided with celebrations of President Islam Karimov’s 75th birthday that were covered by all state-run media. The group said termed the hack a political act “in response to false news spread by Uzbekistan’s state-run television and radio.
A screenshot from the hacked site was posted to the group’s Twitter feed.
The extent of the Uzbek government’s control over the media was also highlighted in Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index for 2013, which was released on 29 January. Uzbekistan ranks 164th among 179 countries ranked, seven spots down from its 2012 place.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Johann Bihr, head of the watchdog group’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said that Karimov has “tightened his grip on the Internet.” Bihr also reviewed the state of press freedom in the other Central Asian countries, noting the “worst trend” in Kazakhstan, where President Nursultan Nazarbaev was described as moving “closer and closer to the ultra-authoritarian rule of his Uzbek neighbor,” RFE/RL reports.