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Censorship In Turkmenistan

According to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkmenistan's President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov "has isolated the country from the rest of the world and created a cult of personality declaring himself. . . .father of the Turkmen."

In Turkmenistan, citizens have no access to international, independent media sources and all domestic media are state-owned and state-controlled. "Niyazov," the report says, "personally approves the front page content every day of the major dailies, which always includes a prominent picture of him." The report says, "State television displays a constant, golden profile of Niyazov at the bottom of the screen. Newscasters begin each broadcast with a pledge that their tongues will shrivel if their reports ever slander the country, the flag, or the president."

According to the U.S. State Department's latest human rights report, Turkmenistan has "severely restricted political and civil liberties." In April of this year, Turkmen political dissident Gurbandurdy Durdykuliev was released after more than two years in a psychiatric hospital. He was forcibly detained in January 2004 after requesting permission from authorities to conduct a peaceful demonstration against President Niyazov's policies. "They [put me in the hospital] with the aim of driving me crazy," he said.

Kyle Scott, U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said, "only when dissidents such as Mr. Durdykuliev can speak out openly without fear of reprisal or confinement can we say that respect for individual rights, including freedom of speech and assembly, is being upheld."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, "Every day brave men and women risk harassment, beatings, detention, imprisonment, and even death simply for seeking to share the truth with others around the world." Freedom of the press, says Ms. Rice, is a fundamental human right:

"The growing demand for democratic governance reflects a recognition that the best guarantor of human rights is a thriving democracy with transparent, accountable institutions of government, equal rights under the rule of law, a robust civil society, political pluralism, and independent media."

Secretary of State Rice says, "all free societies carry the responsibility to press restrictive governments to allow an open press."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.