In the recent months several Turkmen news outlets have become more visible in Turkmenistan. The journalists of Atavatan Turkmenistan and Salamnews have had interviews with the US Ambassador to Turkmenistan in April 2022. The Embassy shared posts on Instagram and Facebook highlighting the interviews. The state media and the Embassy did not publish the interviews.
We looked at the news being published by Turkmenportal, Orient, Arzuw.news, Atavatan Turkmenistan and Salamnews. We observe several common features:
- Content of the news outlets differ little to not at all, consisting of republishing of copy from the state-owned news agency.
- There is no coverage of problems that Turkmens face in their daily lives: health, education, employment, travel restrictions, housing and etc.
- There is no section where the public’s voice and concerns are heard.
- They do not report “negative” news such as traffic fatalities, bad weather, natural disasters.
- They have no section with obituaries.
- There is some degree of freedom in how female news anchors dress and appear in non-traditional, European clothes.
About press freedom and mass media in Turkmenistan
Mass media in Turkmenistan, Wikipedia: The mass media in Turkmenistan are among the world’s most tightly controlled. The press is controlled by the government, which funds nearly all newspapers. State licensing policy effectively eliminates all outlets not reflecting official views. To avoid reprisal, domestic and foreign journalists engage in self-censorship.
Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Press Freedom Index ranked Turkmenistan 177th out of 180 countries surveyed, ahead of Iran, Eritrea, and North Korea. News in Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most closed countries, amounts only to praise for the regime. The government suppresses all criticism of its policies, leaving citizens fearful and distrustful of the press.
Freedom House: Press freedom is severely restricted. The state controls nearly all broadcast and print media, and the state-run internet service provider blocks websites that carry independent news coverage or opposition-oriented content. Turkmenistan was given only 2 points out of 100 in Global Freedom score.
Human Rights Watch: There is no media freedom in Turkmenistan. All print and electronic media is state-controlled. Foreign media can very rarely access Turkmenistan. Authorities suppress independent voices and retaliate against local stringers for foreign outlets. Internet access in Turkmenistan remains heavily state-controlled. Many websites, including social media and messengers, are blocked. The government monitors all means of communications.
What does it mean for you to have “free news” in Turkmenistan? What criteria do you use to evaluate the state of the news reporting in our country?