Uzbekistan drafts bill toughening punishment for Internet users who call for protests

TASHKENT (TCA) — The government in Uzbekistan plans to toughen punishments for people using the Internet to organize or call for unsanctioned rallies, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service reported citing a source close to the Uzbek government.

An Uzbek Justice Ministry panel has drafted amendments to the country’s Criminal Code and the Administrative Procedural Code to that effect, the source told RFE/RL on December 16.

Under the draft legislation, a person convicted of using media outlets, social networks, or other Internet tools to organize or call for unsanctioned gatherings, rallies, or mass demonstrations could face up to 10 years in prison.

It was not immediately clear whether the legislation had passed through any of the necessary steps to become law.

The bill needs to be approved by the rubber-stamp parliament before President Shavkat Mirziyoyev can sign it into law.

Russian authorities have used similar legislation to prosecute Internet users in what has been denounced by human rights groups as being part of an effort to crack down on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

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Times of Central Asia