Turkmenistan: political culture and media landscape
(Charles University, Prague)
This paper analyzes the political culture in Turkmenistan as a framework of the suppressed media environment in the country. It focuses on the transformation of the media landscape in the period from 1991 onwards in the comparative perspective of the political culture under the first President of Independent Turkmenistan Saparmurad Niyazov and his successor Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. I support that interaction of the Turkmen political culture and the personality of the political leaders is the key factor in defining the dynamics of the media landscape of the Turkmen society. In contrast to the existing discourse on non-dynamic or static authoritarian mood in Turkmenistan, I argue that some gentle and slow transformation is going on in the political system, in the media sphere in particular, although tough control and media censorship is maintained. The political powers use methods of silencing independent reporters, surveillance of subscribers of new media, and persecution of critics of the government policy. Meanwhile, the emergence of the new generation of journalists, including citizen journalists in contradiction to the journalists still having Soviet background challenges the authoritarian regime. This analysis is based on a case study method - the content and style of the Turkmen official online newspaper and the practice of social media.
Media and Politics in Central Asia