TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan is cracking down on websites that promote extremism, separatism and other illegal activities with a set of new procedures and regulations.
Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov September 5 signed a resolution that explains the reasons and procedures for banning internet resources that contain prohibited material.
Under the new regulation, effective immediately, the government may block a website if it propagandises extremism, separatism or fundamentalism; calls for violent overthrow of the government; incites national, religious or ethnic hatred; propagandises drugs or pornography or exposes state secrets.
The resolution also details how one may have authorities unblock a website.
"Prior to this, Uzbekistan had no laws that described the procedure for blocking sites," Vasily Motylin, a cybersecurity specialist from Tashkent, told Caravanserai.
"Many sites, including information resources, were blocked 'without any official finding'. Nobody ever announced who did [the blocking] or on what basis or how the owners could restore public access to their site," he said.
"Sometimes the sites became accessible again, and sometimes they would disappear," he said.
"It's good that site owners will have the opportunity to file a complaint in court about the blockage [of a website] in Uzbekistan. Formerly we had no mechanisms for that," Motylin said.
Monitoring internet resources
The Mass Communications Monitoring Centre at the Press and Information Agency of Uzbekistan will be responsible for blocking sites, according to the new measure.
The centre will keep the data on blocked resources, which the government will not make public. However, site owners will be able to obtain information about whether their website is on the list.
"Specialists at the monitoring centre will do round-the-clock tracking of the dissemination of information prohibited by Uzbek law on the internet," Makhmud Fazliddinov, spokesperson for the Ministry for Development of Information Technologies and Communications, told Caravanserai.
"If they find any [violators], a decision will be made within a day with an explanation of the reason for placing the site on the list of blocked resources ... [and it] .. will be blocked within 12 hours," he said.
Visitors to a blocked website will see an announcement of its addition to the registry of prohibited resources, he said. He did not disclose the number of websites already blocked.
Unlike in other countries, blocking a website in Uzbekistan does not require a decision from a court, but the owners have the right to file a complaint against the move, according to Fazliddinov.
In addition, site owners may voluntarily remove the prohibited information and inform the monitoring centre in writing that they have done so, Fazliddinov said, adding in that case, authorities will unblock the website within two days.
"At present, it is very difficult to find a site with extremist information in Uzbek on the internet," Tashkent-based political scientist Umid Asatullayev told Caravanserai.
Resources for militant groups such as the 'Islamic State' (IS), the Taliban and Imam Bukhari Jamaat, an Uzbek group fighting in Syria, "no longer work because of the degradation of these groups", he said.
"YouTube channels with little activity can be found; the extremists also have channels on Telegram and WhatsApp," he said.
Militants using internet resources to spread the ideas of radical Islam represent a greater danger to society than do those dormant insurgent sites, warned Asatullayev.
"Preachers have already started appearing on the internet, reading sermons in Uzbek about intolerance of other religions and ethnic groups [in Uzbekistan] and the need to introduce Sharia law in Uzbekistan," Asatullayev said. "Obviously they have foreign sponsors."