Officials in Turkmenistan, an oppressive and secretive former Soviet republic, are endangering its citizens by suppressing information about COVID-19, while claiming to have zero infections despite sharing a border with Iran, a major hotspot of the disease, a watchdog group says.
“This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov," said Cavelier, who heads RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations.”
The release also said Turkmenistan had taken "serious measures in order to prevent the importation of infection into the country," including enhanced surveillance.
He said the smoke would destroy viruses that are "invisible to the naked eye," but reportedly didn't mention "coronavirus" by name.
"Banning the term 'coronavirus' might seem to us obscene and extreme," Cooley told the outlet. "But in reality, when the state controls all of the media and all of the digital nodes coming in and out, it's not that outrageous. My sense is that they'll try and keep [the pandemic] under wraps as long as they can."
Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist-turned-dictator, has ruled Turkmenistan since 2007.