Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Central Asia: Nov ‘07

In-depth report on political developments in Turkmenistan wins plaudits from Turkmen inside and outside the country.
By IWPR Central Asia
IWPR editorial teams in Central Asia and London published in late November a special report on the progress of political and economic reforms in Turkmenistan since the country’s leadership changed in December 2006.

“Halting Progress on Turkmen Reforms”, based on numerous interviews within the country, was conducted by a Turkmen émigré journalist who visited the country to research the piece, and edited in Bishkek and London.

The thrust of the 8,000 word-report was that despite big promises of change and reform, the new leadership of president Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has done little to set the country on a course of more liberal political and economic development.

The report, republished and cited by many news websites specialising in Turkmen news, won plaudits from Turkmen inside and outside the country, including media activists, journalists, NGO and INGO representatives, analysts and experts.

To follow up the report, the IWPR Bishkek office organised a round table event for experts to discuss the reform process investigated in the story.

Attending the event were journalists from Turkmenistan, émigré advocacy groups and political analysts. All attendees thought the report an extremely useful and timely piece of analysis that helped consolidate the information known about Turkmen progress on reform and identify areas in which officials are not fulfilling pledges.

Arkady Dubnov, Central Asia observer at the Moscow-based Vremia Novostei newspaper, and a well-known expert on the region, told the round table that the report was “very saturated with factual details and analytical discourse”.

“IWPR’s work should be praised,” he said.

Tajigul Begmedova, head of the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation, said the report was very interesting, relevant and stood out among other similar materials with its knowledgeable, balanced approach.

“We receive information that your material is read even by the authorities in Turkmenistan and are taking its findings into account,” he said.

IWPR work on Turkmenistan is “invaluable” in a situation, where there are no alternative sources of news and analysis, said Begmedova.

One media representative inside Turkmenistan said she read the report with interest, and felt a lot of serious work was done, proving very useful for local NGOs.

Vyacheslav Mamedov, leader of the Netherlands-based Turkmen NGO Civic Democratic Union, said he believed there was “great interest” in this kind of publication.

He said that the report was important as “it addresses needs of the public who want to know the truth about what is happening in the country”.

According to Mamedov, “[One of the aims of the Civic Democratic Union] is to inform people inside Turkmenistan through our network of activist”.

That is why, said Mamedov, he planned to send the IWPR Turkmen report to his colleagues in Turkmenistan for distribution.

“Most of them do not have access to the IWPR website. I asked the report to be distributed through our activists’ network,” he said.

Mamedov pointed out that the IWPR Turkmen report was “very useful for the work of NGOs and other organisations in Turkmenistan”.

“The information [in the report] can be used to analyse the current situation in Turkmenistan, as a lack of reliable information makes it difficult…to get a real assessment of what is happening inside the country.”

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