It’s Now Illegal to Say ‘Coronavirus’ In Turkmenistan
While the rest of the world can only talk about the coronavirus pandemic now, Turkmenistan has something else in mind. Led by dentist-rapper Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the Turkmenistan government has now banned all mention of the coronavirus pandemic from casual conversation, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The Central Asian country maintains it has no coronavirus cases. To that end, any mention of the novel coronavirus or wearing of face masks in public can get a person arrested by plainclothes officers, reports suggest. The state-run media is also refraining from using the word, especially regarding the effects of the pandemic in the country, RSF reports. The disease has also been scrapped from all health brochures distributed in hospitals, schools, and workplaces, according to a local independent news outlet, Turkmenistan Chronicles, which has been blocked in the country.
“The Turkmen authorities have lived up to their reputation by adopting this extreme method for limiting all information about the coronavirus,” Jeanne Cavelier, head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement. “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.”
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Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most closed countries, in which citizens have access only to a highly-censored Internet and heavily-controlled state media. The country ranks last on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.
Out of 180 countries RSF evaluates, India ranks at 140. Recently, the Indian government appealed to the Supreme Court that it should obtain full control over what the Indian media publishes regarding the Covid19 pandemic. In an affidavit, the government said the media shouldn’t be allowed to print or telecast any data regarding the coronavirus pandemic “without first ascertaining the true factual position from the … Central government,” The Wire reported. For now, the SC has denied the appeal.
In India, as in most of the rest of the world, citizens are increasingly looking to their governments to lead the fight against the Covid19 pandemic. Giving any state this level of control — over how and when to impose lockdowns, how to expand testing and treatment, over whether to acknowledge the breadth of the problem — can quickly become a slippery slope if left unchecked. Information is the one true weapon in containing this pandemic — let’s make sure we continue to have it.