‘Hotbed of Slander': Tajikistan’s bizarre explanation for blocking Facebook

Tajikistan's government has ordered all Internet Service Providers and mobile carriers in the country to block access to Facebook, cutting off the country's 41,000 users off from the world's largest social network.

The country's telecom chief, Beg Zuhurov, justified the move by saying "hundreds of citizens" had called him to ask that Facebook be shut down because it was a "hotbed of slander."

Tajik servicemen take part in a ceremony opening the "Okmazor" frontier post on Nov. 6, 2012. (Reuters)
Tajik servicemen take part in a ceremony opening the "Okmazor" frontier post on Nov. 6, 2012. (Reuters)

In a BBC interview, Zuhurov also asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to "come to Tajikistan" so they could discuss the alleged government criticism.

In August, Tajikistan created a group of observers to monitor the Web, and Zuhurov said those volunteers have been reporting that "strange people" were getting paid to write offensive comments about the government on the site, the Russian news agency Ria Novosti reports.

Only about 6 percent of all local Internet users in Tajikistan use Facebook, according to the Next Web, but it is a troubling sign of broader censorship there. In March, the country also blocked access to Facebook for a week

In August, Reporters Without Borders wrote to Zuhurov expressing “profound concern” that he was creating a group of Internet monitors, EurasiaNet reported.

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Olga Khazan · November 27, 2012