The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is concerned by the restrictions on the right to freedom of expression imposed by the Government of Tajikistan following violence in the region of Gorno-Badakhshan. Last week the government mandated the blocking of video-sharing website YouTube and reportedly shut down communications networks in Gorno-Badakhshan, severely restricting the free flow of information. A number of news sites, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), have also been reported blocked.
We urge the Tajik government to restore access to these websites and maintain phone, mobile, and Internet connections to the region. As the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović stated on July 27, “Blocking is a restriction on free media and, most importantly, deprives citizens of their right to know, to receive and impart information about the developments in their own country.”
Companies providing Internet and telecommunications services in Tajikistan at this time face a difficult situation, and may find themselves under duress from the government to operate in ways that go beyond legally accountable law enforcement activities. In these complex circumstances, a valuable first step for companies is to be transparent with their users to the maximum extent possible, and if human rights policies are not already in place, companies should issue guidance to in-country staff to ensure that their response is within the framework of international human rights principles.