What news do Turkmen newspapers cover?

Both the incumbent Turkmenistan President and his predecessor have repeatedly criticized the mass media for their lack of expressiveness, monotony, primitivism, whereas journalists have been criticized for the poor level of expertise in their news coverage and reports.

Editors-in-chief of newspapers and magazines are being replaced while the contents of the products in practice remain the same. The only change is the replacement of the portraits of Turkmenbashi with portraits of G. Berdymukhammedov, and quotations of the former president with quotations of the incumbent.

The headlines are still dull and boring: "The future starts today", "Turn the native land into a blossoming garden", "Advancing communications and telecommunications to the international arena", "Fifteen years in the Turkmen marketplace", "The attendees of the international exhibition of telecommunications, telemetering, IT and TV broadcasting equipment Turkmentel-2007 and the international practical conference address Turkmenistan President and the Chairman of the "Khalk Maslahkaty" Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in a letter of appreciation" etc. The aforementioned headlines are quoted from the issue of the Russian-speaking newspaper "Neitralny Turkmenistan" of September 17.

Yet, new trends, albeit quite modest, are evident. Whether the editor-in-chief of the aforementioned newspaper has come to realize that the newspaper content cannot spark the readers' interests or he is following the guidelines of the high-ranking authorities, recently the newspaper has been publishing materials downloaded from the Internet. What information can be offered by the editorial board to capture the readers'attention? No coverage of politics or economics is available. One can just see the following: "New research methods for nano object study found", "Fresh water to be obtained from Greenland icebergs", "Mastodon skeleton fragments found in northern Greece"... Apparently, one might find it exciting to read about "pixel object images", "nano tubes" and other accomplishments of international research, but the majority of readers look for non-biased and trustworthy information on the latest domestic events.

We have conducted a small anonymous survey among readers. Apparently, this is not illustrative enough, yet it reflects the public opinion. Semen G. – a labour veteran, a retiree, 77 years old, a city inhabitant: "Despite the fact that the newspaper "Neitralny Turkmenistan" covers only semi-official news, I read it from the top to cover. Why? No other newspapers are available in Russian!"

Kumysh S. – a teacher of history, 34 years old: "From a professional point of view I occasionally find the relevant information for my school classes, yet as a reader I am not very interested in its contents. I would like to learn more about our unvarnished reality as it is".

Annaoraz I.? a journalist with 35 year experience, jobless at present

"If the newspaper were self-sustained financially, the editorial board would make an effort to make the newspaper content more readable, increase its circulation and attract the readers' attention. In the meantime, there is no need for this. They will face no constraints in attracting subscribers since the subscription to several newspapers is mandatory for every employed country's resident. There is no competition and no single independent print media, at least formally. Furthermore, obviously, freedom of speech does not exist. Moreover, our press is more committed to ideological upbringing and propaganda rather than generating profit". In general, people are indifferent to local newspapers and magazines. They do not read them even if they receive them in their mailboxes by subscription. No changes are likely to be expected unless the internal policy, the information policy in particular, is reviewed.

Source: TIHR