It appears that the Pentagon's propaganda outlet in Central Asia is going out of business. The recently passed U.S. defense budget bill eliminated funding for the Trans Regional Web Initiative, a program that published a variety of regional "news" websites, including Central Asia Online. American newspaper USA Today, which has done a lot of investigations into the TRWI, reports:
"None of the funds authorized to be appropriated for fiscal year 2014 for the Department of Defense may be obligated or expended for the Trans Regional Web Initiative," the annual defense law says. It makes an exception for a $2 million payment to pay for the termination of the program by the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and to transfer some capabilities to other parts of the military.
EurasiaNet's David Trilling wrote the definitive piece on Central Asia Online for Foreign Policy in 2011, noting that its Uzbekistan coverage "has shown a disturbing tendency to downplay the autocracy's rights abuses and uncritically promote its claims of terrorist threats." He added that the website sometimes "downplays abuses even contrary to concerns expressed by the U.S. government.":
On Sept. 13 , the State Department singled out Uzbekistan as a country "of particular concern" for religious freedom, noting "serious abuses" in the government's "campaign against extremists or those participating in underground Islamic activity." The day before the report was released, Central Asia Online ran a story defending Tashkent, entitled, "Uzbekistan fights terror, not religion, analysts say." The story canvased members of state-sanctioned religious groups to paint a picture of tolerance inside the country, concluding, simplistically, that "most agree with the crackdown on terror."
Little has changed since then; CAO still has an unmatched level of access to officials even in media-hostile Uzbekistan, and it still provides clumsily uncritical assessments of that country's anti-"terror" operations.
USA Today notes that the TRWI's backers in Congress may still be able to put funding for the program in another spending bill. But barring that, Central Asian governments are soon going to lose one of their most enthusiastic cheerleaders.