The chief of Tajikistan’s Office of Telecommunications announced today that he has ordered the Internet service providers in the country to block Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). He said he received innumerable complaints from citizens over the “slanderous” content posted on the social networking site about Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon.
Beg Zukhorov, the head of telecommunications, said that he received many calls from angry citizens who asked him to shut down Facebook. The doctors, academic professionals and important cultural figures were tired of such a stream of mud and slander that was flooding through Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). He claimed that some unknown people were defaming the leaders of the state, and they were apparently being paid “$5,000 to $10,000” for every critical comment on the president. However, he didn’t give any evidence of the allegations, or tell who was funding these posts.
So far, six mobile phone carriers and six Internet companies in the Central Asian republic have followed his orders. Mr. Zukhorov said his office has been flooded with the calls of appreciation after giving orders to ban the site. He also said that he would happily discuss the issue with Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) chairman Mark Zuckerberg if the billionaire techie flies down to Tajikistan. “Does Facebook have an owner? I’d like to speak to him. Let him come to Tajikistan. I will meet with him during office hours,” he said.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s Russian office oversees operations in Tajikistan. The chief of Facebook Russia, Ekaterina Skorobogatova, said that she was aware of the situation, but didn’t respond immediately.
Of course, it’s not the first time Tajikistan has blocked access to the social networking site. In March, the site was banned for 10 days when an article criticizing president Imomali Rakhmon appeared on the site. Many other websites, including BBC, YouTube, and Russian news agency RIA-Novosti have been blocked in the past.
Mr. Rakhmon has been ruling the country for two decades, and he is facing an election in November 2013. During his rule, Tajikistan has been heavily criticized by the international human rights organizations for rigged courts, unfair elections, and media intimidation. Victory in the next year’s election would give Rakhmon another seven years of reign over the country that went through a civil war in 1990s.
Tajikistan, which has a population of 7.5 million, has only 41,000 Facebook users.