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Turkmen Law a 'Fiction'

Turkmenistan -- School textbooks with Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's picture, 02May2012
Turkmenistan -- School textbooks with Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's picture, 02May2012
The media watchdog Reporters without Borders has responded skeptically to Turkmenistan's first media law ever, enacted on 4 January.

"In principle, it proclaims freedom of expression and bans censorship but it has so far done nothing to narrow the gulf between the official discourse and the reality of one of the world’s most closed and repressive countries," a statement issued today reads.

“For the time being, some of its provisions, although very satisfactory on paper, border on the ridiculous when confronted with the reality of journalist practices. The state is supposed to ‘guarantee media pluralism and independence’ but in practice the media are monolithic and controlled by the state and independent journalism is unthinkable. We strongly urge the authorities to bring practice into line with their own legislation," said RWB secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

RFE/RL Turkmen correspondent Dovletmyrad Yazkuliyev was granted a 2012 Hellman/Hammett award by Human Rights Watch in recognition of his courage and contribution to free expression in the face of persecution.

Yazkuliyev was threatened by security officials and subesequently jailed on spurious charges in 2011 for reporting on an explosion in the city of Abadan in defiance of a government ban.

Turkmenistan has the second-worst ranking in Freedom House’s 2012 Freedom of the Press report and has numbered among the "Worst of the Worst" countries for freedom overall in the monitoring group's surveys of the last several years.