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As Turkmen Service Turns 60, Censorship Is Alive And Well

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov
On March 2, RFE/RL's Turkmen service marks 60 years of reporting uncensored news in one of the world's most-closed societies.

Azatlyk Radiosy, as the service is known locally, operates from RFE/RL's headquarters in Prague, since it is not authorized to have a bureau inside the country. RFE/RL recently applied to authorities to accredit several correspondents, a request which, if granted, would provide a measure of official recognition to the service for the first time.

Currently, the service maintains a network of stringers and contacts who provide reports that are produced, broadcast, and published from Prague. Correspondents are routinely threatened in response to their work, and their family members have faced discrimination and harassment.

Consumers of Azatlyk Radiosy take risks to access it, whether by broadcast or on the Internet, defying political and practical prohibitions against unsanctioned information. Nevertheless, the service's website, in particular, has demonstrated impressive growth in the last year. Total visits are up 85 percent from 12 months ago, and 50,000 visits and 137,000 page views were recorded for January 2013.

A recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists looks for hope in the country's media law passed on January 4 but finds that "reform appears to be only posturing and the most repressive and hermetic country in Eurasia remains just that."