President of the Republic of Turkmenistan since 2006
Predator since taking office
Turkmenistan, 178th/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: Totalitarian autocracy
Since taking over as president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has often used a reform discourse but the gulf between his words and reality could not be bigger. This is one of the world’s most totalitarian regimes. It adopted a media law in January 2013 that proclaims free speech and bans censorship. But that was pure window-dressing. The state continues to have a complete monopoly of the media, which are used to pump out propaganda, and punishes any deviation from the official line very severely.
Since 2008, Berdymukhammedov has been waging a war against satellite dishes, which are used by the population to watch Russian, Turkish or Arabic TV channels and to escape the Turkmen state media’s controlled information and stifling propaganda. The only Internet available is a completely expurgated national intranet called “Turkmenet,” accessible only to those who show a passport and copy of a document attesting to ownership, rental or free use of the premises where the connection is installed. Use of VPNs is forbidden.
FAVOURITE TARGETS: Clandestine reporters and exile journalists
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Authoritarian pressure
“The Turkmen media do not provide enough coverage of the state’s successes.” (Message to the media, January 2014).