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Turkmenistan 'putting lives at risk by using secret police to enforce ban on mentioning coronavirus'

Turkmenistan's government has reportedly banned the word 'coronavirus' from the local media and health information leaflets.

According to reports, brochures with information about the prevention of viral diseases distributed by the government have dropped all mention of the coronavirus.

Police are also allegedly detaining citizens merely for discussing the pandemic.

Reports suggest undercover agents have been eavesdropping on public conversations in an effort to catch people out.

Turkmenistan's government rejected the accusations, but it has introduced measures to stop the spread of the virus, including temperature checks at set points and handing out wet wipes in crowded areas.

Movement of citizens within the country, particularly in areas outside the capital, is also being restricted.

Jeanne Cavelier, head of Reporters Without Borders' eastern Europe and central Asia desk, said banning people from mentioning coronavirus puts the local public at risk.

She added in a statement: "The Turkmen authorities have lived up to their reputation by adopting this extreme method for eradicating all information about the coronavirus.

"This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by president Gurbanguly Berdymukammedov.

"We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations."

Elsewhere, the state-owned news agency TDH reported that Turkmen citizens who are still overseas, including students, would be brought home through special charter flights that are still being organised.

Belfast Telegraph