Power over the Wave: Altyn Asyr Monopoly and the Internet in Turkmenistan

(This article is based on open-source information available at the time of writing. The specifics of the political and information situation may change).

The Internet, as the most important resource of information and communication, has gained universal importance in the modern world. In some countries, including Turkmenistan, the Web is subject to strict regulation by the government. The system of mobile communications and Internet services in Turkmenistan is concentrated in the hands of the state organization Altyn Asyr, but control over the Internet lies entirely within the competence of the Ministry of National Security.

“Altyn Asyr is the monopoly provider of communication and internet services in Turkmenistan. Although the organization provides access to the Internet, it is the Ministry of National Security that regulates the country’s information space.

The system of Internet governance in the country is complex and multifaceted. In addition to controlling the Altyn Asyr organization, there are also specialized departments that monitor the Internet and the activities of users. It is unusually important to note the availability of many technical solutions, such as specialized routers like ME 4so with built-in VPN, which allow bypassing restrictions and blockages, providing the illusion of freedom on the network.

The events of April 27, 2020, when a hurricane forced the authorities to introduce a special internet filtering regime, serving access via mobile data even in regions where it was previously unavailable, made it clear that internet control could increase in response to different situations.

The trend of blogger activism, particularly on TikTok, is also noteworthy. Perhaps this is the outward appearance of internet openness in the country, aimed at misinforming foreign observers.

In addition, pro-government actions, as in the case of activist Shatlyk Shikhiev, demonstrate a tendency towards information struggle. His video, where he is congratulated by well-known figures and bloggers, may have been part of a strategy to create an illusion to attract attention and emphasize support from official circles.

So, the internet in Turkmenistan remains a complex object of control and manipulation. The tense interaction between state structures and innovative technologies creates a unique dynamic that influences the country’s information space.