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OSCE Condemns Media Abuses in Turkmenistan - 2003-01-16

An official of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has condemned the abuse of the media in Turkmenistan. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Freimut Duve, blasted Turkmenistan television for using what he called "Stalinist" methods.

Mr. Duve made a statement to the OSCE Permanent Council based in Vienna. He described how television in the isolated republic is humiliating and destroying 60 people accused in connection with an alleged attack against the country's president, Saparmurat Niyazov. Mr. Duve says Turkmen television has shown live broadcasts, reminiscent of the Stalinist show trials. The accused confess and are denounced by members of the public who demand the death penalty.

"We have a totalitarian situation in the very deep sense of the word," he said. "No freedom of journalism whatsoever. But not only that we have a situation of the early '30s either in Russia under Stalin or Germany under Hitler, in that the media are just taken to create the syndrome of traitors, to kill the traitors, to get rid of the traitors."

Mr. Duve says the rhetoric is often obscene. He is also concerned at the explicit racist language used to smear opposition leaders.

In a live broadcast on Turkmenistan television of a session of the People's Council, one speaker called for the elimination of the accused and their families. Another speaker said they should not be executed by firing squads, but rather should be put to an agonizing death. Nine Turkmens have been sentenced to jail in connection with the failed assassination attempt last November. Their trial was held behind closed doors and has been condemned by human rights activists as unfair.

The United States has accused the Turkmen authorities of conducting summary trials of suspects, denying them due process of law, and in some cases torturing them.

Turkmenistan's leader has created an elaborate personality cult in his 17 years in power. In 1999 parliament declared him president for life.