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Tajik President Covers Up Embarrassing Video By Blocking YouTube

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, June 6 2013

Screenshot from the infamous YouTube video

A video from 2007 has come back to haunt Tajikistan President Emomalii Rahmon, and he had to go and block YouTube because of it. The video shows President Rahmon singing and dancing (perhaps drunkenly) at his son's wedding, and some say illustrates the excesses of the ruling family. Uploaded on May 18, it has emerged at a politically tense time: the presidential election – “the most important political event of the country in the past seven years” – will take place in November.

One comment on the video, translated on Global Voices Online, reads “That's a real dictator who should be hanged in the gallows – the people suffer – and he dances on their bones.”

Another YouTube user, also quoted by Global Voices, wrote: “Shame on such a government, the people are strewn across other countries, but [the government] are fattening themselves. Their only road is the one to hell.”

Other reactions were more understanding: “Right, what's wrong with it?! He is also a human being like all of us! And his dancing is not bad!!”

The President must have found it at least somewhat embarrassing and/or damning if he went as far as blocking YouTube. Maybe because the ceremony apparently broke Tajik laws that limit the size and duration of wedding parties.

However, blocking social media sites is far from a first for his administration. Last year the Tajik government created a “volunteer-run body [to] monitor the Internet for citizens who criticize” the President. Before the agency was even official an 18-year old student was detained after criticizing the President on Facebook.

Perhaps the Facebook criticism reached such a peak the government could not detain all the detractors, because in November Rahmon blocked Facebook entirely.

Imagine what American politicians who have suffered from embarrassing social media gaffes would block if they could.

Anthony Weiner, instead of crying hacker and deleting the tweet, could have blocked Twitter entirely. President hopeful Rudy Giuliani might have blocked Facebook after his daughter joined the group “Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack).” Mitt Romney might have liked to block Tumblr after he told the public about his “binders full of women" (but he would have had to block Amazon, too).

But did President Rahmon do the right thing for his image? Blocking YouTube may have made the situation even more embarrassing and, perhaps, even more visible. “Thank you for blocking youtube over this video,” wrote one commenter, “I would not have seen it otherwise!”

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.