In the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan, the government recently issued an order banning the word “coronavirus.” So far the restriction has been implemented on everything from health pamphlets to the official media, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Although the country took swift measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, or CCP Virus, the government has been reluctant to report any cases of infection.
Therefore, as of today, it has no official figures for the number of infections, while neighboring countries such as Iran have reported more than 30,000 infections and more than 3,000 deaths.
According to IBT Times, citizens do not have access to information since the official media is controlled by the government, and even the use of face masks is prohibited as well as talking about the disease in public, since anyone who does so could be arrested.
The police are also circulating in civilian clothes among pedestrians in order to exercise greater control over information related to the virus, which may end up being disseminated.
Given the restrictions, citizens are opting to speak in code to be awary of the disease. According to Reporters Without Borders, the situation of censorship in Turkmenistan could lead to people being in imminent danger.
According to ABC News, although President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s ban has been extended to the whole country, the leader known as “father protector” has been holding talks with the Uzbekistan president in an effort to take a number of measures to combat the virus.
“Current aspects of bilateral cooperation were discussed, including the priority measures taken in both countries to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection,” according to a report in the appeal.
“The work of the relevant departments and organizations in providing mutual practical assistance and monitoring the development of the epidemiological situation, especially in the border areas, was noted with satisfaction,” the report added.
So far the Central Asian region has a gap in information on the progress of the pandemic; the lack of transparency in infection figures has drawn attention and suspicion in other countries that have instead openly reported on the impact of the CCP Virus.
Turkmenistan ranks last in the World Press Freedom Index, according to the latest report in 2019.