The autocratic regime in Turkmenistan has its way of dealing with the corona crisis. The government prohibits the use of the word ‘coronavirus’. There is a threat of arrest for people who talk about it or who are caught with a mouth mask.
The Central Asian state has not yet officially reported any coronavirus infection. This is remarkable because the country has an 888 km long border with Iran, which has been severely affected by 44,000 infections. In Iran, nearly 3,000 people have already died, and 3,703 people are in hospital in a critical condition.
The former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan has now banned media from using the word “coronavirus,” reports international media watchdog ‘Reporters Without Borders’. The term has also been removed from leaflets on Covid-19 that are distributed in schools, hospitals, and companies.
Turkmens wearing protective masks are at risk of being picked up by plainclothes agents. Talking publicly about the virus can also lead to an arrest.
On the World Press Freedom Index, which tracks press freedom in countries around the world, Turkmenistan was at the very bottom last year, below China and North Korea. Since 2006, leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has ruled with an iron fist.