Bella Sewall on 12 Jul 2000 08:04:41 -0000

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<nettime> Internet in Turkmenistan

     [orig. to the GILC list]

To Whom it May Concern at the Global Internet Liberty Campaign:

I am writing to inform you about recent events in Turkmenistan which are
threatening the access of people from all sectors of society, from
journalists to scientists to businesses to humanitarian organizations,
to the internet. The following press release explains that because of a
government crackdown, Turkmentelecom is about to become a monopoly
internet service provider, sealing one of the last chinks of freedom
reaching the population of this country.

I know that GILC understands the importance of maintaining a choice of
internet service providers where the commitment of these providers to
free expression, privacy, and fair use is vital to preserving some form
of open communication in a country where every small nod towards freedom
is significant. I have less experience in these issues and look forward
to any advice you might have to offer about how to effectively publicize
this matter and raise the funds necessary to rescue independent internet
access in Turkmenistan. I would also be greatful if you could include
the information contained in this press release on your website.

Thank you in advance for your assistance with this matter. I look
forward to hearing from you.


Bella Sewall
Executive Director, Law and Environment Eurasia Partnership


The text below is identical to that contained in the attached press


July 1, 2000, Ashgabad, Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan. On May 25, 2000, the
Ministry of Connections of Turkmenistan revoked the licenses of private
Internet service providers and froze the bank account of biggest private
provider, Ariana Ltd., in an effort to make Turkmentelecom, the official
telecommunications provider of the government of Turkmenistan, a
monopoly. This move threatens to restrict the access of people from all
sectors of society in Turkmenistan, from journalists to scientists to
businesses to humanitarian organizations, to the Internet.

Before the Ministry began its attack on private providers, clients of
these private providers included the embassies of the USA and the Ukraine,
the Central Bank of Turkmenistan and several other banks, many foreign
correspondents, many environmental and educational organizations, and
most private firms. Turkmentelecom's service is not reliable nor is
Turkmentelecom committed to allowing the free of exchange of ideas over
the Internet. On the contrary, Turkmentelecom is known to read and
censor correspondence and their official policy is that they maintain
the right "to close the account in case of sending/distributing
information which may bring a damage to the governmental interests."
Perhaps even more restrictive for clients operating outside of the
capital, Ashgabad, Turkmentelecom does not have local servers, so users
not living in Ashgabad must pay for a long distance call in order to
connect to the internet, a prohibitive expense especially for poorer
rural clients made even more unreasonable by the low quality of long
distance connections. Turkmentelecom does not offer reduced rates to
humanitarian organizations. Turkmentelecom had only 100 clients on May

One of Turkmenistan's private Internet service providers, Ariana Ltd.,
is struggling to continue to provide services to the users of the more
than 350 accounts that were previously maintained by the company.
Ariana has continued to provide free or reduced price Internet access to
environmental and humanitarian organizations operating throughout
Turkmenistan, as it did before the recent licensing problems arose.
However, because Ariana owes Data Sat, its satellite provider, $11,000
for services provided for the month of June, and cannot access the money
in its account because the government of Turkmenistan has frozen its
assets, Ariana faces bankruptcy and the loss of its satellite access.
If the Ministry refuses to relent, it may still be possible to save a
shell of Ariana dedicated to non-commercial support of NGOs doing
humanitarian work. This will cost $3000 per month after June. Ariana
staff would continue to work as volunteers, and all funds would go to
cover fees charged by third parties.

For more information or to make a donation to help Ariana maintain
independent internet access and prevent the closing of Turkmenistan's
iron curtain, please contact:

1. Bella Sewall, Executive Director, Law and Environment Eurasia
email:, phone in Almaty, Kazakhstan: (7- 3272)
639 510

2. Andrei Zatoka, Dashkhovuz Ecological Club
email:, phone in Dashkavuz, Turkmenistan:
(10-993322) 56683

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