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Is Internet content still restricted in Uzbekistan?

Article B1 of the Media Intervention Plan on "Internet Freedom in Uzbekistan" for 2022 by the report of the Freedom House international

non-governmental organization

Many countries around the world have decided to develop their own national approaches to regulating the use of the Internet. Such attempts have had varying degrees of success and sometimes unexpected consequences. This can be observed in a growing number of countries, where in recent years it has been decided just to restrict access to Internet content.

Today there is hardly any state in the world that does not apply the practice of imposing the restrictions on the Internet use. The degree of inhibitory effects varies widely. If the technologies implementing the Internet are neutral, then their application is linked to the general features of the national political system. Therefore, the legislation on the regulation of the Internet is determined by political objectives, hence, the rules for using technologies on the network have a national and political dimension.

Analyzing the experience of legal regulation of the dissemination of (illegal) information on the Internet in developed countries, three main models can be discerned.

The first model is "Content Filtering". One of the main means of such filtering are firewalls. Firewalls are used by ISPs both to protect against viruses and hackers, and to block access to sites of a certain direction. The representative of this legal approach to regulation is the United States.

The second model assumes the responsibility of the provider for any actions of user. For example, in France, on March 19, 2000, the Senate approved a bill that requires ISPs to disclose information about the authors of websites to any interested third party under the threat of criminal liability of imprisonment. Another bill dated of March 22, 2000, made it compulsory for owners of all the country’s websites to register and it made ISPs criminally liable for providing hosting services to unidentified users. At the same time, the authors of sites hosted on French servers must submit their personal data to ISPs before the site becomes available on the Internet. As you can see, this Law eliminates anonymity and introduces censorship at the ISP level.

Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands can be seen as the representatives of the second model.

In Denmark, a simplified procedure for closing Internet sites is used. Here the ownership of all Internet resources belongs to the state. It is enough to submit an application to close the site, justifying the need to terminate the site.

The Internet Website Complaints Commission, having evaluated the arguments, may close the website of illegal content.

The responsibility of Internet service providers for posting any illegal information on servers is provided for by the national legislation of Belgium.

The legislation of the Netherlands provides for the obligation of providers to install special equipment that allows law enforcement agencies to monitor information, as well as store all user records, including the personal data, for three years.

The third model of regulation of Internet relations releases the ISP from liability if it fulfills certain conditions related to the nature of the provision of services and interaction with the subjects of information exchange. Germany can be attributed to this model of legal regulation.

According to the Federal Telecommunications Act, the administrative liability of ISPs for posting illegal content shall be provided only if they are the owners of this information or knowingly distribute it with reference to other sources.

According to the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Informatization", the main directions of state policy in the field of informatization are the followings:

 the realization of the constitutional rights of every citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan to freely receive and disseminate information, providing access to information resources.

— the creation of all favorable, comprehensive conditions for access to international information networks and World Wide Web;

In particular, the relevant ministries and agencies in Uzbekistan are currently working on creating conditions for the free access to foreign social networks and messengers on the territory of the Republic.

The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Principles and Guarantees of Freedom of Information" regulates information security measures and is considered fundamental, based on which public relations are regulated when receiving, using, storing data in the field of information technology, including information security.

In accordance with Article 14 of this Law, the information security of society is achieved by ensuring the development of the foundations of a democratic civil society, freedom of the media, prevention of illegal information and psychological impact on public consciousness.

The Republic of Uzbekistan, by Resolution No.127-I of the Oliy Majlis of August 31, 1995, acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - the United Nations Covenant based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 2020, the delegation of Uzbekistan headed by Mr. Akmal Saidov, First Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, Director of the National Center for Human Rights, took part in the 128th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC), held in Geneva.

The delegation of Uzbekistan presented the fifth periodic report of Uzbekistan on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In his opening remarks, the head of the delegation Mr. A.Saidov provided detailed information about the main directions and achievements of the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant in Uzbekistan.

During the interactive dialogue, the Committee experts welcomed the progress in the development of human rights culture in Uzbekistan, achieved after the election of Shavkat Mirziyoyev as the President of the country. The experts noted with satisfaction the reduction of the prison population, the ban on the use of evidence obtained under torture, as well as progress in achieving gender equality.

It is particularly noteworthy that the current legislation has been amended accordingly in order to liberalize criminal liability. In particular, the custodial sentence for slander and insult has been abolished.

In the recent years, the restoration of technical access to the web resources of a number of foreign publications and human rights organizations has been ensured. The websites of Voice of America, Eurasianet, BBC, Deutsche Welle, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières), etc. are among them.

In the "Press Freedom Index" for 2022, Uzbekistan improved its position by 24 points compared to last year’s rating.

Uzbekistan's approach to Internet regulation can be considered more liberal compared to other developed countries. Access regulation (content restriction) is carried out in the following areas:

- the protection from negative impact on the younger generation and the protection of personal, personal data;

- protection against content that qualifies as terrorist, extremist, radical or hateful contents.

In this context, we will give an overview of the articles of the laws of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in accordance with which an access to illegal content or an Internet resource containing such information is regulated.

In accordance with the Article 121 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Informatization"

The owner of a website and/or a page of a website or other information resource, including a blogger, shall be obliged not to allow the use of his website and/or a page of a website or other information resource on the Internet, on which public information is posted, for the following purposes

- the propaganda of war, violence and terrorism, as well as the ideas of religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism;

- the distribution of information that incites national, racial, ethnic or religious enmity;

- the propaganda of pornography, a cult of violence and cruelty, as well as incitement to commit suicide and other prohibited content.

As in the whole world, an urgent problem is a protection of children from the traumatic impact on their fragile psyche of negative information that can develop vicious tendencies in a child.

Due to the lack of life experience and their fragile psyche, the children are more than others exposed to influence through computer games, mobile communications, advertising, and especially through the World Wide Web of the “Internet”.

The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On the Protection of Children From Information Harmful to Their Health", namely the Article 16, classifies information harmful to the health of children.

In addition, according to the Article 18 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Restriction of Distribution and Use of Alcoholic and Tobacco Products", advertising of alcoholic and tobacco products is not allowed. Along with this, the Article 23 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Advertising" prohibits the advertising of tobacco, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages of any strength.

According to the "Regulations on the Procedure for Registration and Use of Domain Names in the Domain “UZ” (registered by Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan on June 23, 2008 under number No.1830), the domain name administrator (website owner) shall be liable for posting information that violates the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The domain name administrator shall be obliged to take immediate measures, within his technical capabilities, to eliminate the offense connected with his domain name as soon as he becomes aware of it.

The procedure for restricting access to Internet websites outside the “UZ” zone containing information dissemination of which is prohibited by the legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan is defined by the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan "On Measures to Improve Information Security in the World Information Network Internet" No.707 dated September 5, 2018.

In case of non-compliance with the requirements of the legislation, the restriction of access to websites and/or pages of websites on the Internet is carried out by a specially authorized body in strict accordance with the norms of national legislation.

The state policy in the field of informatization is aimed at creating an integral and self-sufficient national information system, taking into account the current global trends in the development and improvement of information resources, technologies and systems.

To date, the Republic of Uzbekistan is continuing work to improve the legal regulation of the dissemination of information on the Internet, taking into account current trends in the development of information technology in the world.