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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Turkmenistan

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Turkmenistan, February 1997, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Wielding absolute power over the media, President Saparmurad Niyazov used them mainly to promote his cult of personality. He declared himself "founder" of all periodicals, which effectively gave him control over the country's newspapers and magazines. (To obtain a publishing license in post-Soviet states, a publication must have a "founder.") Some observers characterize Turkmenistan as the former Soviet republic with the least amount of press freedom, the result of the state's heavy hand and little initiative by local reporters.

The two state television channels specialize in footage of the president, known as "Turkmenbashi" ("the Father of Turkmen") and his meetings with foreign dignitaries. Turkmen television typically offers "endless [official] interviews, slow music, and pictures of horses and flags, with an occasional pirated Western movie dubbed into Russian thrown in for good measure," one knowledgeable Western observer noted. The only other option is ORT, Russia's public television station, which staunchly supports Russian President Boris Yeltsin. In recent years, the government has closed down even state-run regional broadcasters.

The Turkmen government refused to grant residence permits to opposition journalists in neighboring Tajikistan who had contemplated taking refuge in Turkmenistan from their country's civil wars. Foreign correspondents in Turkmenistan, including Russians, have deplored the lack of reporting freedom and access to information.

There do not appear to be any independent periodicals. The two leading government dailies, Turkmenistan (in the Turkmen language), and Neitralniy Turkmenistan (in Russian), have circulations of only 50,000 and 40,000, respectively, apparently because of high production costs. Government policies effectively keep foreign publications out of Turkmenistan: Border authorities confiscate periodicals, and visitors arriving by air must leave their newspapers on the plane.

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