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Cablegate: Romanowski Delegation Receives Unprecedented Coverage In

VZCZCXRO2059
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0650/01 1841027
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031027Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8940
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0382
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0404
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0841
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2092
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0889

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASHGABAT 000650

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


SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR KPAO OIIP PREL PGOV AF TX
SUBJECT: ROMANOWSKI DELEGATION RECEIVES UNPRECEDENTED COVERAGE IN
TURKMENISTAN'S STATE MEDIA

Reftel: Ashgabat

Summary
-------

1. (U) The May 2-5 visit to Turkmenistan of an education delegation
led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alina L. Romanowski
received wide coverage in state media. Her meetings with government
officials from Turkmenistan's Mejlis (parliament), Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Education received Turkmenistan
media attention. State media also gave wide coverage to
Romanowski's visit to the Dashoguz region, where she met with local
authorities, visited a local school and attended the closing
ceremony of Aksaray Ding Tower restoration project, funded through a
U.S. State Department "Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation"
(AFCP) grant. State media ignored some events in Romanowski's
program and inaccurately reported her visit to School 27 in
Ashgabat. End Summary.

State Media Highlights Romanowski's Arrival
-------------------------------------------

2. (U) On May 2, state-run Watan TV News announced Romanowski's
arrival and purpose of discussing a new direction in
Turkmenistan-American cooperation in education, culture, and sports.
The report accurately stated that Romanowski coordinated
professional, cultural, and youth exchange programs. The report
praised her meetings with representatives of the Mejlis, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Education. Romanowski expressed
the United States' desire to cooperate in the large-scale education
reforms initiated by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The
report highlighted appreciation of bilateral partnerships in
education, specifically naming Fulbright, FLEX, Edmund Muskie and
other U.S. exchange programs. Hundreds of Turkmenistanis studied in
the United States through those exchange programs, where they
improved their knowledge of English and made friends with American
colleagues, according to the broadcast. (Comment: Post fights
yearly to keep these programs alive, let alone get any positive
media coverage on them. End Comment.) The report described
Romanowski's visit to School 27 in Ashgabat and her trip to Dashoguz
City to meet with local authorities, visit School 13, and travel to
the Aksaray Ding AFCP. The reported noted that Turkmenistan and
American specialists reconstructed this historical monument with
funding from the "Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation"
grant. (Note: No American specialists were directly involved; only
the funding was American. End Note.) The next day, state dailies
"Neutral Turkmenistan" (Russian, circ. 35,211) and "Turkmenistan"
(Turkmen, circ. 28,091) gave coverage with similar content.

Inaccuracy and Omission in State Media Coverage
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (U) Both May 2 state Watan TV News and May 3 state dailies
coverage inaccurately reported that Romanowski had already visited
School 27 in Ashgabat, when she did not do so until noon of May 3.
(Note: Turkmenistan's media often inaccurately report details of
PAO events to give lip-service support but to prevent interested
locals from attending on their own initiative. End Note.) The
state media also omitted Romanowski's visit to Magtymguly Turkmen
State University and meetings with the governor of the Dashoguz
region and education department officials.

State Media Highlights Dashoguz Visit
-------------------------------------

4. (U) Romanowski and her delegation's May 4 visit to Dashoguz
Province received broad coverage on state Watan TV News (Turkmen)
the following day. The news broadcast reported on her visit to
School 13 and the Beki Seytakov Pedagogical School. The broadcast
played various video scenes displaying the delegation arriving at
School 13, sitting at student desks, watching performances by
students, visiting classrooms, speaking to students and holding
discussions at the pedagogical institute. (Note: Interestingly, the
video never included the Dashoguz deputy governor, who sat at a
student's desk next to Romanowski. End Note.) The news broadcast
put a heavy emphasis on Romanowski's closing ceremony of the Aksaray
Ding tower restoration project. The broadcast quoted Romanowski:
"Now this monument will be preserved for future generations." The
coverage of the ceremony included video scenes of Romanowski giving

ASHGABAT 00000650 002 OF 002


remarks and speaking to locals. The broadcast followed with a long,
accurate interview, where she summarized the purpose of her visit
and the U.S. government's willingness to expand cooperation with
Turkmenistan in the education sphere. Romanowski expressed support
for President Berdimuhamedov's ideas of reforming education to meet
international standards through the exchange of specialists. She
also expressed the United States' plans to expand these academic and
professional exchange programs. Romanowski noted the Aksaray Ding
project was one of seven "Ambassador's Fund for Cultural
Preservation" program projects in the country and expressed
satisfaction in supporting Turkmenistan's ancient and rich history.
On May 5, the Dashoguz visit received coverage in state dailies
"Neutral Turkmenistan" (Russian, circ. 35,211), "Turkmenistan"
(Turkmen, circ. 28,091) and on the pro-government website
TURKMENISTAN.RU (Russian, English).

5. (U) On May 11, state TV-4 Channel (Turkmen, Russian, English,
French, Chinese, Arabic, and Persian) aired a 20-minute long program
about Romanowski and her delegation's visit to Turkmenistan. The
program gave coverage similar to that used in Watan TV News on the
visit to the Dashoguz region and included personal interviews of the
five other members in the delegation. The interviewees gave a
summary of their areas of interest, purpose of their visit, and gave
their impressions of Turkmenistan. Embassy's PAO gave background
information about the "Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation"
projects in Turkmenistan and the Aksaray Ding tower restoration
project. State TV-4 replayed the program several times on
subsequent days.

COMMENT
-------

6. (U) State media gave positive coverage to Romanowski's program
throughout her visit. State media praised American-Turkmen
cooperation in the areas of education and cultural preservation.
The level of coverage was truly unprecedented in comparison with
other VIP visits or Embassy programs. Post was astonished and
pleased with the coverage state media gave on Romanowski visit. End
Comment.

BRUSH

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