Tajikistan blocks leading independent news website

Tajikistan blocks leading independent news website

DUSHANBE - The Associated Press
Tajikistan blocks leading independent news website Internet service providers in Tajikistan have blocked access Tuesday to a leading local independent news website Asia-Plus at the government's request.

The move came into effect after the state communications agency ordered the measure over comments posted on the website that it said were insulting to high-ranking officials.

Servers for Asia-Plus, which frequently publishes material heavily critical of the Central Asian nation's authoritarian government, are based abroad and the site can still be accessed worldwide.

In March, service providers blocked Facebook and several opposition sites at the government's behest, following wide online circulation of an article predicting unrest in the impoverished former Soviet nation.

Tajikistan has low levels of Internet penetration, but authorities have nonetheless proven nervous at signs government opponents could use online media to mobilize.

Authorities initially insisted the block on Asia-Plus was prompted by unspecified technical issues, but the head of a state communications agency, Beg Zukhurov, said Tuesday that comments posted under an article were found to be defamatory to senior government officials.

Asia Plus has promised to remove a comment declared defamatory by the authorities, and Zukhurov promised to lift the block after that.