This semester we learned about different issues in Uzbekistan including foreign East West relations, forced labor, human rights abuses, Aral Sea environmental
disaster, water wars, border controls, and other issues.
I would like to write about censorship in this post. According to the Freedom House 2015 report on Uzbekistan, the state is described as “one of the most tightly controlled online and media environments in the world, with restrictions on any content critical of the government, high levels of surveillance, and prosecutions with lengthy prison sentences for posting controversial content online.”
From the previous post, we know that the state imposed the ban on cell phone use on campuses and schools. In addition to that, public access to internet cafes is restricted.
Students are not allowed in internet cafes from 8:30am to 7:00pm; minors are not allowed without parental supervision between 10:00pm and 6:00am. Internet café owners are required to have surveillance cameras on the premises and keep a list of visitors including their log files and sites they visited.
Any public organizations (libraries, museums, schools, universities) can only connect to the internet through the local/national network, ZiyoNET, which is controlled by Uztelecom, a state-owned telecommunications company. Mobile phone companies are required by the state to report any suspicious text messages or limit internet access to users at “authorities’ request.”
The National Security Service also monitors emails, phone conversations, online forums, and social network activity as a measure “to prevent terrorism and extremism.”
The government blocks any content critical of the regime, leadership, foreign/domestic affairs and human rights. That also includes the websites of political opposition groups and any independent news websites. Below is the list of permanently blocked websites that do not show up in the Uzbek search engine:
- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
- Deutsche Welle
- BBC Uzbek language service
- Voice of America
- Amnesty International
- Freedom House
- Human Rights Watch
Ironically, the Uzbek Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, of the mass media, and the right to gather and disseminate information. It also guarantees the privacy of communication. However, anything that is found to be threatening to the constitutional order, public security, slander, insult and insult to the president is punishable by law – punishment includes fines up to 100 times the minimum monthly wage, arrest, “correctional labor,” and prison sentence. Bloggers and journalists are not allowed to operate without a state issued license and prohibited from publishing any information that “represents a threat to public security.” Many journalists have been punished for “interference in internal affairs” and “insulting the dignity of citizens.”
According to Human Rights Watch, currently there are “three dozen journalists, activists, writers and intellectuals are behind bars” due to their work (some of their pictures are above).
The government also controls its film and music industry. The state recently published a list of 700 foreign films that are banned because of “indecency” and “eroticism.” The national cinema agency, Uzbekkino banned the showing of the movie Deadpool as “it is not line with Uzbek ethical norms.”
UzbekNavo, the national company responsible for issuing show business licenses, recently issued specific rules on the dress code and stage behavior for Uzbek women singers to make sure that their outfits “cover shoulders and legs” and that their behavior on stage should not have any “sexual content.” This order came after two female singers, Rayhon and Lola, released a video wearing “openly European dresses” and singing a song titled “I loved you not enough.”
Both singers were criticized in media and online forums and by the Women’s Committee “for promoting filthy thoughts” and their licenses were suspended by UzbekNavo. One of the singers was forced to promise to adhere to the new dress code.
The Women’s Committee mentioned earlier started a campaign called “Saving Our Spirituality,” promoting a “True Uzbek Woman” image. The ideal Uzbek woman “should know her place and be modest, wear national clothes, [and] be politically passive.” The committee published a list of “harmful” things that are “alien to Uzbek people” – it included a ban on sexy dresses, make up, wearing t-shirts with “Kiss Me” and “I love New York” phrases. Any woman wearing “openly Western-style clothing” or Muslim hijab, should be reported to the authorities. So all of this is done in the name of protecting Uzbek culture from the immoral Western influence and radical Islam.
The state definitely went to great lengths to protect its citizens from “harmful” information and control any content being taught in schools and what is published in traditional and online media. The government controls what people watch, read, study, wear, say and write; as well as, monitors closely all the above activities and silences anyone who does not agree with the system. This how democracy is presented by the Uzbek Model of Development.
‘Deadpool’ Won’t Screen in Uzbekistan, Exhibitors Decide. Retrieved from http://hollywoodreporter.com/news/deadpool-wont-screen-uzbekistan-exhibitors-864595
Doniyor Asilbekov, Uzbekistan Moves to Censor Women’s Fashion (July 7, 2015), Silk Road Reporters. Retrived from http://www.silkroadreporters.com/2015/07/07/uzbekistan-moves-to-censor-womens-fashion/
The Naked Truth About Censorship in Uzbekistan (April 2016). The Global Voices. Retrieved from https://globalvoices.org/2016/04/10/the-naked-truth-about-censorship-in-uzbekistan/
Uzbekistan: Country Report, Freedom on the Net, 2015. Freedom House. Retrieved from https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2015/uzbekistan
Uzbekistan profile – Media – BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16218808