|07ASHGABAT734||2007-07-24 11:51:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Ashgabat|
1. (SBU) State media gave thorough, positive coverage on all
high-level U.S. visits, but as usual ignored smaller programs or
events. International media drew heavily from Turkmenistan state
media sources for their own reporting in June, but provided
different interpretations of the same information. International
media reports consistently revolved around gas pipelines, despite
the fact that the CENTOM Cmd. Fallon and EUR DAS Feigenbaum visits
focused on different issues. State media ignored the U.S. Embassy
border security equipment donation to the State Border Service of
Turkmenistan. A state print outlet refused to let one of its own
journalists publish an article on the U.S.-funded FLEX high school
exchange program. END SUMMARY.
HIGH LEVEL VISITS RECEIVE GOOD COVERAGE
2. (SBU) Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South
and Central Asia Steven Mann and his delegation's visit on May 31
attracted accurate and positive coverage from both state and
international media in June. State media covered Mann's meeting
with President Berdimuhammedov and carried his emphasis on U.S.
interest in the related issues of gas pipeline development and
improving the investment climate in Turkmenistan (reftel A).
3. (SBU) CENTCOM Commander Admiral William Fallon's visit on June
20 failed to gather the usual negative media coverage from Russian
sources on security visits. However, international media articles
neutrally framed the meeting in the context of a Russian-American
power struggle in the region. Most international media based their
articles on state sources and the highly detailed security article
by C.J. Chivers of the New York Times. State media focused on the
domestic concerns of counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and
border security. Although state media were overwhelmingly positive
towards Fallon's visit, they reinforced their neutrality status and
desire to co-exist peacefully with their neighbors (reftel B).
4. (SBU) International media failed to cover Deputy Assistant
Secretary Evan Feigenbaum's June 25 visit focused on the
multi-dimensional bilateral relationship with Turkmenistan.
Instead, the possible Trans-Caspian Pipeline was the primary focus
in international coverage. State media favorably covered numerous
aspects of his visit and detailed the different goals of the visit
in a positive fashion, even giving separate, substantial attention
to Feigenbaum's attendance at an official burning of illegal drugs
DONATION OF TRUCKS RECEIVES MINIMAL COVERAGE
5. (U) On June 7, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty used excerpts
from an embassy press release to accurately report that the U.S.
government donated five mobile trucks and radio communications
equipment, worth $250,000, to Turkmenistan's border-protection
service, as part of ongoing programs to stop the spread of narcotics
and weapons of mass destruction. State media gave no coverage;
there was no other observed coverage.
STATE WEBSITE HIGHLIGHTS FLEX PROGRAM; STATE PRINT REJECTS
6. (U) On June 4, Turkmenistan's official website "Turkmenistan
Golden Age" (Russian, English) posted an article on the May 27
ceremony recognizing finalists of the FLEX high school exchange
program. Daily "Neutral Turkmenistan" (Russian, circ. 39,091) staff
writer Viktoriya Novikova, who frequently covers education issues,
attended the event on her own initiative in support of President
Berdimuhammedov's positive statements on international educational
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exchanges. The article stated that the 14th group of FLEX finalists
would travel to United States to "discover the wonderful country of
America" in July and August. The article accurately explained the
FLEX program, its background in Turkmenistan, and its recruitment
process, as well as the U.S.-government role. In particular the
article accurately reported that ACCELS had implemented the FLEX
program since 1993 within the framework of cooperation between the
United States and Turkmenistan. Unfortunately, the article never
made it into print editions of state papers. (NOTE: Journalists
say that posting articles on government websites is easier. Given
that the majority of the local population has no access to the
internet there are lower censorship concerns. According to
Novikova, the editor-in-chief prevented publication of her article
due to her positive view of the United States. In most cases, the
stories that support the president's policies appear in the media.
7. (SBU) Overall media coverage in June was positive with favorable
coverage of official visits in state media. International media
relied heavily on state sources for their own reporting and tended
to spin many events towards gas pipeline issues. Nonetheless,
international coverage was generally neutral or positive. Yet
censorship or simple lack of coverage for successful, popular, and
cooperative security or education programs (paras. 5 and 6) reveals
the continued, directed nature of state news media during June.
These events did not have an obvious ?blessing? from the highest
authorities. Although the volume of positive coverage of U.S.
Government events has recently been high in state media, the covered
events directly and obviously coincide with President
Berdimuhammedov's agenda. There is still limited diversity in state
media reporting. END COMMENT.