Around the world, authoritarian regimes seek to maintain a tight grip on digital spaces, as part of wider restrictions on fundamental human rights, online and off. One tactic that digital dictators often turn to is cutting off or limiting internet access, to restrict the flow of information and cover up human rights violations. In Central Asia, where many countries were historically either part of or were occupied by the Soviet Union, we have seen a distinct increase in the use of internet shutdowns amid an ongoing shift toward digital authoritarianism in the region.
In the past year alone, Central Asian authorities have used internet shutdowns to crush protests over regional autonomy in Uzbekistan, refusal to investigate the murder of a local citizen in Tajikistan, essential goods price hikes in Kazakhstan, and alleged election interference in Turkmenistan.
In these and other countries in the region, ordinary people affected by shutdowns are often afraid to speak out, fearful that they or their loved ones will be persecuted by authorities. The #KeepItOn coalition’s Shutdown Impact Stories project has collated the following testimonies to document the concrete impact of internet outages on people’s day-to-day lives. We have used pseudonyms to preserve our contributors’ identities and keep them safe from reprisals.
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How you can help fight shutdowns, in Central Asia and elsewhere
Authorities in the Central Asian region continue to wield Internet shutdowns as a weapon against people dissatisfied with their countries’ authoritarian regimes.
Help us to ensure that the internet allows all people in Central Asia to freely express their opinions and to develop alongside other global economies, by taking the following steps:
- Share this blog post on social media using the hashtag #KeepItOn and #InternetShutdown to raise awareness about the devastating impact of internet shutdowns on people’s lives.
- Share our Shutdown Stories form (also available in Tajik) with people you know who have been affected by a shutdown, to help us strengthen our international advocacy and litigation work with additional testimonies.
#KeepItOn is a global campaign that brings together 300+ organizations from around the world united to end internet shutdowns through grassroots advocacy, direct policymaker engagement, technical support, and legal intervention.