Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The extraordinarily repressive political environment in Turkmenistan has gutted the very concept of media freedom in the country. All media outlets are controlled by the state, subject to stringent censorship, and frequently employed as vehicles not for the dissemination of information, but for the glorification of President Saparmurat Niyazov. State interference extends to foreign media and the Internet, severely limiting access and hindering reporting from within the country. Russia's state-run Radio Mayak was forced to stop broadcasting in Turkmenistan in 2004. Freelancers Rakhim Esenov and Ashyrguly Bayryev were detained in February and March by the National Security Ministry and told to stop reporting for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). RFE/RL Ashgabat correspondent Saparmurat Obezverdiyev was forced into exile in 2004 following an abduction and death threats in 2003. And Mukhamed Berdiyev, a Moscow-based correspondent for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, was brutally beaten in Moscow in April 2004 after receiving warnings to curb his criticism of the Turkmen government.
A fourth television station broadcasting in several languages was launched amid much fanfare in October 2004, but the project appears to be more of a public relations stunt and does not significantly affect the media environment. Some reports indicate that despite official restrictions, individual Internet access is obtainable and satellite dishes are a common feature of city life. Nonetheless, the cost is prohibitive for the vast bulk of the population. President Niyazov's government places a premium on the media, and particularly television, as a propaganda device, as evidenced by the president's personal involvement in management shake-ups at three state-run nationwide television stations. At the same time, President Niyazov in August ordered the editorial offices of newspapers and magazines to downsize staffs and increase salaries for remaining employees by 50 percent by January 1, 2005. As in preceding years, the Turkmen government's continuing efforts in 2004 to transform the media into an adjunct of the official press service and an accomplice in a cult of personality stood as a distressing example of the state's capacity to undermine the media's core mission of informing and enlightening the population.