Google access eased during EC president's Tajikistan visit


DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan appeared to unblock several popular websites and Google services during European Council (EC) President Donald Tusk's visit to the country as part of a regional tour Thursday (May 30).

Tusk was holding talks with veteran Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon Thursday ahead of visits to two other Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

As president of the EC, Tusk helps determine policy directions for the European Union, which aids Central Asian border security through the Border Management in Central Asia programme.

Internet users had previously reported problems using a number of popular news websites, Facebook, YouTube and Google services.

Google services became inaccessible shortly after a prison riot this month that left 35 people dead including 19 prisoners who were members of "Islamic State" (IS), according to authorities.

Sites had been down throughout May

Facebook and YouTube had been inaccessible throughout the month prior to Tusk's arrival according to Tajik users, who regularly have to resort to circumvention tools to use the two websites.

But all of these online resources were working on Thursday, according to users of two top Tajik internet providers.

Users also reported that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's popular Tajik service had become accessible after a period where it had appeared to be blocked.

The Reporters Without Borders watchdog in April called for the government to cease blocking websites, citing a five-month long block on Asia-Plus, one of the few independent news websites.

Asia-Plus remained inaccessible during Tusk's visit according to internet users.

Tajikistan's government rarely admits to blocking websites but made headlines in 2013 when YouTube became inaccessible shortly after a video surfaced of Rahmon singing and dancing at his son's wedding.

Tusk is expected to visit both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on Friday (May 31) for talks with leaders of the two countries.

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