Turkmenistan’s government has banned the use of the word ‘coronavirus’, and those who utter the word in public will get arrested by the police, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported on Tuesday (31 March).
According to the RSF article, the country has prohibited the state-controlled media to use the word ‘coronavirus’ and removed it from health information brochures distributed in schools, hospitals, and workplaces.
RSF, an international non-governmental organization that promotes the right to freedom of information, indicated Turkmenistan’s government ban on the word ‘coronavirus’ as a radical move to suppress all information about the pandemic.
“This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
RSF cited the Turkmenistan Chronicle in its reporting, one of the few sources of independent news in Turkmenistan, which RSF claimed has been blocked within the country.
“The Turkmen authorities have lived up to their reputation by adopting this extreme method for eradicating all information about the coronavirus,” Ms Cavelier noted.
CNET reported that the country had also banned restaurants, gyms, and sports events last week, and extended school holidays to two weeks.
“They take away people for any talk about the coronavirus. Special people listen to the conversations in lines, at bus stops, on buses,” CNET cited a journalist at Radio Azatlyk, a station that circumvents press restrictions in the country to broadcast reports on Turkmen and Russian.
Despite Turkmenistan’s proximity to Iran – which reportedly has a total of 44,605 COVID-19 cases and 2,898 death tolls – Turkmenistan has not reported any infected cases of the virus so far.
The country has been ranked last in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index as it is one of the world’s most closed countries.