Turkmenistan tops Central Asia in the number of internet shutdowns

Access Now, an organisation promoting digital rights of users at risk, recently published a report titled “Weapons of control, shields of impunity: Internet shutdowns in 2022.” It describes a growing trend of 187 internet shutdowns across 35 countries. Shutdowns are resurging after the pandemic, lasting longer, targeting specific populations, and are being exercised when people need a connection the most. Some governments are becoming more sophisticated and intentional by targeting certain groups, minimizing economic consequences while allowing wealthy elites, government officials, and selected businesses to operate on broadband, fixed-line internet.

Turkmenistan topped the number of internet shutdowns in Central Asia. In 2022 there were 36 shutdowns in 8 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The highest number was in Ukraine – 22, where all shutdowns were imposed by Russia during its invasion. The second largest number of internet shutdowns was in Turkmenistan – 4.

  1. Ukraine – 22
  2. Turkmenistan – 4
  3. Kazakhstan – 2
  4. Russia – 2
  5. Tajikistan – 2
  6. Uzbekistan – 2
  7. Azerbaijan – 1
  8. Armenia – 1

Turkmenistan implemented service-based shutdowns and shutdown during the presidential election in March 2022. Turkmen authorities also implemented communications platform shutdowns, along with censorship of websites and blocking of VPNs to control information and supress dissent. The state actors’ technical expertise in censoring,surveiling,and shutting down access to internet has certainly improved in Turkmenistan, which allows authorities to institute multi-layered shutdowns. As Turkmenistan is planning to develop a centralized, national intranet, this may point to further increase in technical measures for controlling the digital spaces.

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