Tajikistan blocks scores of websites as election looms
By Roman Kozhevnikov
DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajikistan blocked access to more than 100 websites on Tuesday, in what a government source said was a dress rehearsal for a crackdown on online dissent before next year's election when President Imomali Rakhmon will again run for office.
Rakhmon, a 60-year-old former head of a Soviet cotton farm, has ruled the impoverished Central Asian nation of 7.5 million for 20 years. He has overseen constitutional amendments that allow him to seek a new seven-year term in November 2013.
The Internet remains the main platform where Tajiks can air grievances and criticize government policies at a time when the circulation of local newspapers is tiny and television is tightly controlled by the state.
Tajikistan's state communications service blocked 131 local and foreign Internet sites "for technical and maintenance works".
"Most probably, these works will be over in a week," Tatyana Kholmurodova, deputy head of the service, told Reuters. She declined to give the reason for the work, which cover even some sites with servers located abroad.
The blocked resources included Russia's popular social networking sites www.my.mail.ru and VKontakte (www.vk.com), as well as Tajik news site TJKnews.com and several local blogs.
"The government has ordered the communications service to test their ability to block dozens of sites at once, should such a need arise," a senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
"It is all about November 2013," he said, in a clear reference to the presidential election. Continued...