Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service says the head of Tajikistan’s Antimonopoly Agency has been dismissed amid criticism over the agency’s decision to increase Internet fees in the country.

The Tajik presidential press service said on April 23 that Saadi Qodirzoda was dismissed from his duties “due to his transfer to another job.”

By Antimonopoly Agency’s decree, as of April 18, the minimum fee for Internet connections more than doubled.

Tajik Internet users started paying at least 62 somoni (equivalent to 6.5 U.S. dollars) per 1 gigabyte.  Before that, the fee was a maximum 35 somoni per gigabyte.

The move led to criticism among Internet users across Tajikistan.

Officials said the price hike was a "a necessary step" to take the youth "out of the virtual world back to reality."

The decision reportedly received the support of a well-known Tajik cleric, Eshoni Sirojiddin, who called the Internet “the century’s plague” while claiming that it leads to “debauchery and adultery, and provokes cheating.”

Meanwhile activists (Internet users) in Dushanbe began collecting signatures under an appeal to President Emomali Rahmon with solicitation to cancel the Antimonopoly’s order to raise prices for mobile Internet and other mobile communications services.

They say by this they want to bring people’s discontent about the Antimonopoly Agency’s order to the President.

However, they were forced to suspend the action as police intervened.  One of the participants of the action says more than 100 people signed the appeal in the evening of April 22.  She is sure that “the head of state will hear their voice and cancel the Antimonopoly Agency’s order.”