Friday, December 07, 2007

Turkmenistan Dictatorship Watch

It's never been clear to me why some thought "better than Saparmurat Niyazov" would translate into "liberal reformer," but Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, while sane, is giving yet more signs that he's still an autocrat:
"Since taking over this year, new Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has been viewed hopefully as a possible reformer who might open up one of the world's most repressive societies. But a new order to remove all private satellite dishes from homes in Ashgabat -- which critics say could block access to independent information -- is quickly tarnishing that image.

"After holding cordial talks in Brussels last month with EU officials, Berdymukhammedov returned home with a burnished image as a man the West can do business with -- a man apparently set to free up Turkmenistan after the bizarre reign of his late predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov.

"But in a nationally televised speech on November 30, Berdymukhammedov seemed to take a step backward. He announced he had ordered the minister of communications to remove satellite dishes from apartment blocks in Ashgabat, the capital. In their place, he said, would go 'a single powerful dish' on each building...

"While the president did not specify who would be in control of the single dishes, rights activists suspect the government will now determine what Turkmen can tune in to."



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