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The megalomaniac dictator who hid the Door to Hell: Layer 8 Podcast

Meet the journalists and internet freedom fighters who try to get the truth into Turkmenistan.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Sep 12, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 1:14 am CDT

In a country where wild-eyed plutocrats and resource-rich egomaniacs reign supreme, a few brave Turkmen are challenging their government’s iron-fisted rule. 

Saparmamed Nepeskuliev has been imprisoned for over a year. He was a reporter who shined a light on corruption and the woes of his country’s everyday people. He used a wide range of technology, from encrypted apps to shortwave radios, to smuggle truth in and out of his country at great risk to his freedom and even his life.

Even if you don’t even live inside Turkmenistan, when you live in an entirely different country, when you think you’ve escaped the repressive rule of the dictatorship, the country’s forbidding ruling class has a long arm to enforce their will across borders and without hesitation.

In this episode of the Layer 8 Podcast, Muhammed Tahir talks about his journalism career in a country where such work puts a target on your back. Karl Kathuria talks about overseeing censorship circumvention software that gives millions of ordinary people the chance to beat the repressive regimens who would so tightly control their view of the world.

Read more:

  1. Fated To Go To A Turkmen Prison (RFERL • September 2015)
  2. Human rights group demands release of Turkmenistan photojournalist (Guardian • July 2015)

  3. How Ugandans can beat government censorship (The Daily Dot • May 2016)
  4. Struggling for news in Turkmenistan (RFERL • January 2003)  


  1. Lasers – Amsterdam (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)  

  2. Lee Rosevere – The Machine That Won The War (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)  

  3. Chris Zabriskie – Everybody’s Got Problems That Aren’t Mine (CC BY 4.0)  

Contact the author: Patrick Howell O’Neill,

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*First Published: Sep 12, 2016, 6:00 am CDT