Turkemenistan has banned the use of the word “coronavirus” and people who wear face masks in public are reportedly being arrested by plainclothes officers, NPR reported.
Turkmen’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has reportedly banned the word, forbidding state-controlled media from using it and forcing health brochures distributed in hospitals, schools and workplaces to remove it, according to NPR.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondents in the country’s capital Ashgabat report plainclothes officers arresting people wearing masks as well as people who discuss the pandemic in public. Turkmenistan shares a border with Iran, which was among an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Turkmenistan responded to Iran’s outbreak by intensifying border checks between the two countries, according to Financial Tribune.(RELATED: Iran’s Mass Graves For Coronavirus Victims Are Large Enough To Be Seen From Space)
“This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk, but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement according to NPR.. “We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations.”
President Berdymukhamedov has ruled Turkmenistan since 2006 through a personality cult that frames him as the country’s “arkadaq,” or protector. Turkmenistan is ranked last in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, with North Korea a place ahead of it.