DUSHANBE, November 29, 201, Asia-Plus – According to the OSCE Office in Tajikistan, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, warned today that Internet freedom is increasingly under threat in Central Asia and called for governments in the region to promote, not block, access.

Mijatovic spoke at the opening of the thirteenth Central Asia Media Conference, organized by her Office and the OSCE Office in Tajikistan. This year’s event focuses on media pluralism and Internet governance.

“Blocking websites, filtering information, persecuting online journalists, newly adopted restrictive regulations and deficient technical infrastructures are like a plague to the Internet. Although governments have a legitimate role to play when it comes to protecting society from cybercrimes, they also have an obligation to foster Internet access, and any regulation must be free speech-friendly,” she said.  “Governments must understand that providing citizens with a variety of views can only strengthen their democracies.”

“The role of governments is to support and invest resources in Internet literacy instead of blocking. Educated Internet users can make educated choices about what to surf, read or learn on the Internet,” Mijatovic added.

First Deputy Foreign Minister of Tajikistan Mahmoudjon Sobirov also addressed the more than 150 media professionals, government officials, academics and civil society representatives attending the two-day conference, which is being held in Dushanbe for the second consecutive year.

Alongside the conference, Andrey Rikhter, the Director of the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media will conduct an event on the digitalization of broadcasting and its implications for media freedom.

Conference participants are expected adopt a declaration on pluralism and Internet governance.

Mijatovic thanked the authorities of Tajikistan for hosting the Central Asia Media Conference which was financially supported by governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and the US.

During her visit to Dushanbe, Mijatović will also meet the Head of the Supreme Court of Tajikistan, Nusratullo Abdulloyev.