Internet Woes in Turkmenistan
From a recent IWPR report: Surveillance extends to the use of internet, a key link with the world beyond Turkmenistan and its strange state media, which spend much of the time ritually praising the "Great Turkmenbashi", the popular term at the moment. There used to be a number of internet providers in Turkmenistan, but the communications ministry removed their licenses and made the state-run Turkmentelecom the monopoly service provider. Internet clubs and cafes were then forced to close one after another. Now public access to the web exists only at five resource centres run with the support of foreign organisations. Staff there commonly monitor usage by visitors, and stop them accessing banned websites. "I recently opened the centrasia.ru site when an employee came up to me and demanded I close it," said one disappointed user. An employee of the Turkmen communications ministry said the government wanted to create an "information vacuum". He said the ministry had been required by the National Security Committee to set up a special office which trawls through the internet and decides which sites are acceptable and which are not. The list of undesirable sites includes opposition organisations in exile and uncensored information about Turkmenistan carried by Russian news sites, but it is always expanding. One young woman told how she was hoping to apply to a European university to do a master's degree there, but found its site was blocked.