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  For Democracy and Human Rights in Turkmenistan

Media in Turkmenistan: Nothing but the carefully directed shows

Statement by the representative of the Republican Party of Turkmenistan Bairam Shikhmuradov at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation meeting on the situation of the media in Turkmenistan

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I come before you today, honored to represent the only Turkmen opposition party The Republican Party of Turkmenistan in exile. I will start by expressing our deepest concerns in regards to the fact that Turkmenistan, under the dictatorial rule of Saparmurat Niyazov, to his big advantage, appears to be of no interest to the OSCE Representative on freedom of the media.

To put it softly, it is disappointing and frustrating to see that OSCE considers promotion of freedom of media only in those countries where such freedoms are limited, but not in those participating states where one could observe no freedoms of media at all.

On the other hand, we do understand, that it is nearly impossible to talk about the freedom of media in Turkmenistan. It is trivial to say that Turkmen newspapers, magazines, television and radio fundamentally cannot be even considered media.

There has not been a single newspaper article, television feature or information at all passed through any of the Turkmen media outlets about the current World affairs for over 10 years.

Turkmen people have not heard anything about the horrific terrorist acts in New York, Moscow, Madrid and London. They are not aware of the natural disasters in South East Asia and the Gulf region of the United States. Turkmen are not aware about the ongoing war in Iraq or the anti-terrorist campaign lead by the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Niyazov pays extreme attention to blocking off any information coming into Turkmenistan that would not fit well with his personal ideological interpretations of democracy. That is why Turkmen people have no idea about the presidential elections in Russia, United States or Iran, let alone about the recent dramatic political regime changes in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgizstan.

Tragic events or the so called Andijan Massacre are of course not spoken or written about in media in Turkmenistan. Only a brief rumor was spread by Niyazovs propaganda mechanisms about how his colleague, dictator Islam Karimov, dealt with those who opposed him in Andijan so that no one would even consider doing such acts in Turkmenistan. Typical dictatorial scare tactics.

A life of an individual in Turkmenistan is never considered worthy of broadcasting on any level. Nothing but the carefully planned and directed by the local authorities shows depicting Saparmurat Turkmenbashi the Great in every single one of them.

3 years have passed since the OSCE Representative on freedom of the media last reported about Turkmenistan. If you remember, the former Representative Mr. Freimut Duve called Niyazovs regime a fascist one. Since then, the situation in Turkmenistan worsened exactly by 3 times and I can easily prove that. In 2002, there were 3 international journalists assigned in Turkmenistan. Today, there is only one, Russias ITAR-TASS own correspondent Anna Kurbanova. Constantly under personal threat, she reports strictly the official information. That same information that is passed through the local Turkmen media sources.

Colleague of Anna Kurbanova, correspondent of Russian information agency Novosti Victor Panov was detained by the members of national security service of Turkmenistan and accused of espionage. He was quickly sentenced to 15 years in prison. Russian diplomats worked very hard to get Panov out of Turkmenistan to carry out his sentence in his home country. However, upon his arrival to Russia, Panov was immediately released. Currently he is still practicing journalist under a different name. This event did not get the attention it deserved due to the fact that Panovs wife, who remained in Turkmenistan, would have been dealt with by Turkmen authorities.

Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty correspondent in Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Ovezberdyev was numerously detained. He was beaten and threatened by the police on each of those occasions. His wife was fired from her job at local school, where she had worked for over 20 years. Ovezberdyevs entire family were also dealt with by the national security service members. Only after the United States embassy got involved, Ovezberdyev and his son were able to avoid their fraud prison sentences and leave Turkmenistan.

We are deeply concerned that all of the above mentioned facts were not mentioned in the OSCE official reports prepared by the OSCE Representative on freedom of media Miklos Haraszti. Knowing him as a vivid fighter for human rights, Republican Party of Turkmenistan hopes that he will bring the so much needed attention to the catastrophic crisis of media in our country. We are aware that it is impossible to make Niyazov remove the media blockade of Turkmenistan. However, how can one stand by silently and watch the OSCE member country being turned into the Animal Farm?

The Republican Party of Turkmenistan is calls on the OSCE representative on freedom of media to stop closing his eyes on the severe violations of responsibilities of Turkmenistan as a member nation of OSCE and to prepare a report on the real current situation with press in Turkmenistan.

On October 13th of this year Alma-Ata will host the 7th OSCE Central Asian Media Conference. We are requesting the proper OSCE institutions to insure and guarantee personal safety and security to the independent journalists, members of democratic opposition and human rights activists from Turkmenistan so that they can attend and participate in that media conference.

The nature of human beings is created in such a way that one always hopes for the better. The Republican Party of Turkmenistan also hope that one day freedom of the media will be established in Turkmenistan. If there is a freedom of the media in place there will be all freedoms and rights in place as well.