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Why is Turkmenistan considered one of the most closed countries in the world?

Why is Turkmenistan considered one of the most closed countries in the world?

New measures are tightening internet censorship in Turkmenistan, and residents are feeling the effects. In this former Soviet country, rich in hydrocarbons, the state has almost complete control over the Internet, and even circumventing its ban has become a major challenge.

The ban hits tech giants

Global social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have been completely banned. Other globally known messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Viber, Signal or Telegram, are also facing the same situation. As an alternative, the Turkmen government has created an app under its control, Bizbarde, and for online videos, the local equivalent of YouTube, Belet Video, which filters out all content it might expose to the outside world, be it news. Or entertainment.

Decisions imposed by the president of the country

Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov announced in mid-January his intention to “strengthen the country’s cybersecurity” by continuing the restrictive policies of his predecessors. Residents find it difficult to circumvent internet blocks, whether through virtual private networks (VPNs) that end up being blocked as well, or downloading interesting videos, clips or movies due to slow internet.

The problem is bigger than it seems

According to Ruslan Mitev, editor of the news website Turkmennews, which is banned in his country, “there is no media scene” in Turkmenistan. The journalist said that everything the Turkmen see is “propaganda to reinforce the personality cult of the Berdimuhamedov family.”

Turkmen state media publish only official information, with particular emphasis on expressions of gratitude and praise to the country's authorities. Through strict censorship of the media, the state limits the population's access to a global panorama.

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Despite the troubling situation regarding freedom of the press and expression in Turkmenistan, there are those who view it positively, such as Oksana Shumilova, an employee of a construction company in Ashgabat. She is happy with the country's stability and calm, and likes the fact that there are “no critical articles or negative information.”