ASHGABAT — Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has ordered the National Security Ministry to impose further controls on the Internet in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation, which is already known for having the world’s slowest and most expensive service.

Berdymukhammedov said at a televised session of the State Security Council on January 12 that “control over the Internet had not been properly conducted in 2021.”

He ordered the National Security Ministry to focus more on people who post on social networks “ideas damaging to Turkmenistan’s constitutional structures, actions that disrupt social order, and propagate terrorism, extremism, ultra-nationalism, and other illegal activities.”

Berdymukhammedov’s orders come days after protests over gas price hikes in neighboring Kazakhstan led to deadly nationwide unrest and the removal of Kazakhstan’s first president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, from the political scene. During the protests, Kazakh authorities switched off the Internet and restricted mobile-phone operations for five days.

Berdymukhammedov has ruled his country with an iron fist, tolerating little dissent while shutting it off from the outside world amid an economic crisis that has pushed many of its citizens into poverty.

The hard-line government in Ashgabat has stepped up control on people’s access to information in recent years in an attempt to contain the message coming out of Turkmenistan about people’s hardships, while also blocking any information coming from abroad that is critical of the Turkmen government.

In December, the U.K.-based Cable.co.uk said in a report on worldwide broadband speed that Turkmenistan, with an average Internet speed of 0.50 megabits per second (Mbps), was the slowest of all 224 countries surveyed in 2021. In Turkmenistan, it took just over 22 hours and 34 minutes to download a movie file with a size of 5 gigabytes.

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