It is common knowledge that free media is essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Over the 30 years of independence, Turkmenistan has shown unprecedented regression in this area; current Turkmenistan is a product of 30 years of propaganda of the authoritarian regime. The effect of this propaganda is not in the persuasiveness of the arguments, but in the beautiful packaging. Absurdity and nonsense are presented to everyone in a beautiful package, and therefore many people believe in this nonsense. Considering the totality and systematic nature of this process, we get the absence of civil society. Please note that a generation of millions of Turkmen citizens has grown up and, due to many years of lack of access to alternative information, are now very aggressive in their perception of a sober assessment of events. They, like the Mankurts, got it into their heads that a person with an alternative opinion is a traitor to the homeland!
Turkmenistan has ensured that the country annually ranks among the worst indicators in the media freedom ranking. The word “bolanok” - forbidden, is the most commonly used word in the country. All print and electronic media are tightly controlled or owned by the state. The Internet is strictly censored. Many sites and applications are blocked. The authorities carefully monitor all means of communication. You can be stopped on the street, at school, and your phone checked for using VPN services. Authorities systematically suppress independent voices and brutally persecute citizens who share information with foreign media. People who are more or less internet savvy are intimidated, put under surveillance, and forcibly recruited as informers. At the same time, pro-government bloggers can freely use the Internet and throw dirt on activists with impunity.
The Turkmen media obsessively and en masse present the audience with the same pill – that everything is fine, people are dancing and singing. Instead of a serious school education, first-graders are presented with primitive laptops, instead of studying, the use of child labor, marching, drilling of students and a cult of personality instead of vocational training are practiced, and instead of houses, viewers are shown Potemkin villages, which are used for ostentatious prosperity hiding an unseemly state of affairs. There is an absolute lack of freedom of information and lack of civil society in the country.
Another important aspect is the influence of Turkmen propaganda on Western public opinion. This should not be underestimated. The authoritarian government spends millions of dollars on propaganda abroad. Hence the result - international organizations are lenient towards the Turkmen regime, and hundreds of thousands of citizens of Turkmenistan suffer due to violations of media freedom and other constitutional rights.
Turkmen people are trying to cooperate with international organizations in order to draw the attention of the authorities to certain life difficulties, which, for example, in other countries are easily eliminated.
What should we do? Western democracies have found a unique solution to the problem: do nothing.
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights