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Cablegate: September Turkmenistan Media Coverage Omits Myradova,

VZCZCXRO0240
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #1088/01 2891221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161221Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7911
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 001088

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/R/MR, IIP/T, IIP/G/NEA-SA, SA
SCA/CEN, SCA/PAB, SCA/INS, SCA/RA, SCA/PPD, DRL
CENTCOM PUBLIC AFFAIRS-MAJ.BALDWIN/SGT. BAKER
USCINCPAC FOR POLAD R. HUSO
SECDEF FOR PA

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR KPAO OIIP PREL PGOV AF TX
SUBJECT: SEPTEMBER TURKMENISTAN MEDIA COVERAGE OMITS MYRADOVA,
KATZEN COVERAGE

REF: 1) ASHGABAT 1002, 2) 998, 3) 987, 4) 963, 5) Embassy Press
Releases on 9/22/06 and 9/27/06

SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Local media coverage of mission events in September featured
the embassy's ceremony announcing the 2006-2007 Ambassador's Fund
for Cultural Preservation grant winners. While generally positive
and colorful, the coverage failed to mention the U.S. Government's
substantial financial investment in preserving Turkmenistan's
cultural heritage. Meanwhile, local media provided no coverage of
the death in custody of journalist Ogulsapar Myradova or the visit
of Peace Corps Regional Director for Europe, the Mediterranean and
Asia Jay Katzen. End Summary.

COVERAGE OF AMBASSADOR'S FUND 2006-07 GRANTS POSITIVE BUT INACCURATE

--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (U) On September 28, state dailies "Neytralniy Turkmenistan"
(Russian, circ. 33,221) and "Turkmenistan" (Turkmen, circ. 28,161)
printed articles, based on embassy statements, about the embassy's
September 27 ceremony to announce the winners of the 2006-2007
Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation grants. The articles
inaccurately quoted Charg d'Affaires a.i. Jennifer Brush that "the
U.S. Government has been facilitating implementation of various
scientific projects and supporting the preservation of cultural
heritage in Turkmenistan." (Note: Brush's statement did not
mention "scientific" cooperation, but the term "scientific" is often
used by the host government to lend greater academic weight to
events such as Ruhnama conferences. End Note.) The dailies
accurately described the purpose and content of the two new
projects, as well as recently completed and ongoing Ambassador's
Fund projects in Turkmenistan.

3. (U) On September 30, semi-independent weekly
"Zaman-Turkmenistan" (Turkmen, circ. 18,535) drew heavily from the
embassy's press release and misquoted Charge Brush, stating that
"such projects on cultural preservation would give great opportunity
to Americans to learn more about Turkmen cultural heritage and
history." (Note: Brush's statement emphasized that both Americans
and Turkmen could learn from the project. End Note.)

4. (U) The Russia-based state-sponsored website TURKMENISTAN.RU
(English, Russian) posted an article with similar content. On
September 29, the Times of Central Asia newswire (English) provided
coverage based on the TURKMENISTAN.RU article.

5. (U) None of these outlets provided detail on the U.S.
Government's financial commitment to preserving Turkmenistan's
heritage; per post's press release, the United States has
contributed over $80,000 for cultural preservation projects in
Turkmenistan over the past five years.

STATE MEDIA IGNORES DEATH OF LOCAL JOURNALIST
---------------------------------------------

6. (U) From September 14 through September 27 major international
newswires Associated Press, Dow Jones International News, BBC
Monitoring, Reuters, Agence France Presse and ITAR-TASS provided
broad coverage of international concern over the death in jail of
local journalist Ogulsapar Myradova. The reports described the
concern of the United States, the UN and other international
organizations over Myradova's death and of public protests by
members of human rights groups and by Reporters Without Borders at
the Turkmenistan Embassies in France and Russia. These
international reports drew from a small amount of information that
Myradova's body bore a major head injury and evidence of
strangulation, and speculated that the death resulted from abuse in
prison. U.S. newswires U.S. Fed News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
Raw Story and Lawrence Journal World provided similar coverage of
the issue.

7. (U) Meanwhile, local media completely ignored the event and had
ceased coverage of Myradova's case in late June; she was sentenced
to six years in prison on August 25 on weapons possession charges.
State media provided no coverage of the trial. (Note: Watan TV news
aired a story on June 20 accusing Myradova of the charges for which
she was eventually sentenced. End Note.)

JAY KATZEN VISIT RECEIVES NO STATE MEDIA COVERAGE
--------------------------------------------- ----


ASHGABAT 00001088 002 OF 002


8. (U) On September 21, Peace Corps Regional Director Jay Katzen
had official meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs Rashit
Meredov and Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers Gurbanguly
Berdimuhammedov. The embassy's press release emphasized that,
during his meetings, Katzen stressed the importance of the
educational cooperation to the health of the U.S.-Turkmenistan
bilateral relationship. Neither of the meetings received state
media coverage.

COMMENT
-------

9. (U) Post noted that, despite inaccuracies and gaps in coverage
of the September 27 Ambassador's Fund event, local media provided
more than the customary level of detail in drawing from embassy
statements. In contrast, state media continued to avoid coverage of
topics that could be construed as critical of the current regime by
ignoring both Myradova's death and Katzen's visit. Post did not
anticipate a complete blackout on the Katzen visit, as stories on
Peace Corps volunteers and events tend to receive positive and
high-profile coverage.

BRUSH

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