Turkmenistan | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Turkmenistan experienced no significant changes in 2005, maintaining one of the most repressive media environments in the world. The keynote of the media environment remained the same as in previous years-an exercise in near total control in order to glorify a single individual and isolate an entire nation. The state continued to control all domestic media, using them to paint an idealized picture of life in Turkmenistan and further the personality cult of President Saparmurat Niyazov. Any news that might mar this idyll went unreported. The only exceptions to this rule came with the personal approval of the head of state, as was the case when the president ordered journalists to report on lagging progress on harvesting the cotton crop. Similarly, the president himself was virtually the sole source of critical information in state-controlled newspapers and television, which he used to explain and justify frequent personnel shake-ups. State-controlled media provided extremely limited reporting on important international and regional events in 2005, such as the ouster of Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev and the violent unrest in Uzbekistan.

The government continued its campaign of arrests, harassment, intimidation, and violence against journalists during the year. In May, the government proclaimed that local journalists were prohibited from contacting foreigners unless specifically permitted and were threatened with dismissal if they did not comply. In April, Niyazov reportedly ordered the closure of libraries and forbade the import and dissemination of foreign publications, further limiting access to information. However, a Turkmen exile site reported in June that subscriptions to Russian periodicals theoretically remained possible, although they could be purchased only with difficult-to-obtain hard currency and at arbitrarily announced times. Viktor Panov, a correspondent for the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, was detained and deported on allegations of spying in March. Russia's Radio Mayak, which was taken off the air in 2004, remained shut in 2005.

The government operates an absolute monopoly over all media (print, television, and radio), directly controlling not only media outlets, but also the printing presses on which they depend. State television rebroadcast some Russian entertainment programming. Satellite dishes remained available to citizens who could afford them. Turkmen opposition groups in exile maintain a number of websites that are harshly critical of Niyazov's regime and provide original and translated materials in Turkmen and Russian. It is unclear whether these are at all accessible from within Turkmenistan, where the government controls and monitors the internet, although some reports indicate that individual access can be arranged for payment. Nonetheless, the cost is prohibitive for the vast bulk of the population, and less than 1 percent of citizens are regularly able to access the internet.