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A correspondent of the one Russian respectable business newspaper regularly writes big articles on Turkmenistan though he lives not in Moscow or Ashgabat but in a third country of CIS. Surely, it is up to editorial office to define the way of presenting a material and who of the authors is to be given a privilege to cover events in a given country. What matters is accuracy, reliability of information and objectiveness.
But let us think. How could a citizen of the one country making material on the state of affairs of the other country for publication in a newspaper of the third one be objective? Let us remember that we talk about CIS neighbor states here and that disagreements among them, which they inherited following the collapse of USSR, were further deepened by not always peaceful post-soviet divorce practice. Certainly, there are a lot of conditions that unwillingly put a journalist under pressure in such a situation, and there is a great risk that it would affect a final product of his work - an article in a newspaper.
The point here is not about elementary mistakes when, for instance, Tashkent is called the capital of Turkmenistan in some reports, or, as happened lately, one regional internet site published a serious discussion on the career perspectives of Tajikistan Ambassador in ...Dushanbe. This is not about people bad at geography or people lacking common sense. We talk about professionals who unfortunately don't care not only about rating of a newspaper they represent but also about simple trust of their readers.
And this trust is surely undermined while reading the article on the so-called robbery of the century in Turkmenistan - stealing of $40 mln from Central Bank - we come across the sentence saying: "amount of stolen money compares the amount of the annual budget of Turkmenistan". And what is more interesting is that the same author, who wrote quite recently that Turkmenistan got $1.5 bln from gas sales just last year, drew this comparison and who is perfectly aware of the approved budget figures for 2003. Technical fault, do you really think so? Unlikely. The matter is that it sounds just good and nobody will delve in these figures.
In general, the wave of publications in mass media on Turkmenistan regarding the attempt to stage a coup in this country generates sorry thoughts about quality of modern journalism. We can literally count a few balanced, based on the real facts of the real life of the republic, really analytical materials out of the massive flow of articles on the same topic both of critical and complimentary nature towards regime. Sometimes one gets an impression that the notion of plagiarism as a definitively out-of-date sin of writers is thrown out to garbage. The whole paragraphs one by one migrate from article to article although signed by different authors. And there are no references. What are you talking about?
Turkmens have learned many new, interesting and unknown things about themselves and their country from these articles. For example, the State University named after Makhtumkuli is named after the President of Turkmenistan, or that according to a special order it is prohibited to translate the word Turkmenbashi into Russian. In another material we read that "there is practically no Russian left in Turkmenistan", and one more article of a respectable newspaper calls for "protection of interests of 700 thousands of Russians in Turkmenistan".
One famous journalist, whose view of the situation in Turkmenistan fits hardly in entire paper column, tries to make us believe that "Turkmenistan has no oil but only gas". Having read just this first phrase no further deliberations pretending to an "analysis" of a journalist can be accepted.
Sometimes it seems that the attempt on the life of Turkmenbashi was noticed by everyone in the press, even by deputies of Russian State Duma and humorists. And those who have never been to Turkmenistan were especially expressive. Singing some one else's tune - either of former government officials discontented with the head of state or human rights watchers working to compensate foreign grants - sounds as much tiresome as singing the praises to Niyazov by some too much zealous toadies. Yet unsuccessfully, Turkmenbashi often tries to pull them down. Presumably nobody has a right to pull free press down and therefore everybody pulls the limit of responsibility up (or down?) himself...

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By Charygeldi Amanov

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