|07ASHGABAT830||2007-08-10 11:52:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Ashgabat|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L ASHGABAT 000830
1. (C) Embassy received a diplomatic note dated August 7
protesting the series of articles C.J. Chivers published in
"The New York Times" after he accompanied Commander CENTCOM
Admiral Fallon to Turkmenistan June 19-20. The dip note
pointedly reminded Embassy Ashgabat it had supported Chivers'
inclusion in the Fallon delegation, and concluded, as a
result of Chivers' articles, Turkmenistan's "honor in the
international arena has been diminished." The diplomatic
note requested "the U.S. side to prevent such actions from
happening in the future."
2. (C) During his weekly business meeting with Foreign
Ministry Americas Department Director Serdar Bashimov on
August 10, Charge said he was disinclined to reply to the dip
note, but solicited Bashimov's advice. Bashimov agreed the
better part of valor was not to reply.
3. (C) Charge told Bashimov Turkmenistan's international
reputation is so damaged because of the policies of recent
years that it will take a long time before foreign
journalists begin to catch up with current reality,
especially because Turkmenistan's rigid visa regime makes it
so difficult for foreign correspondents to enter the country
freely and spend enough unhindered time to gain a deeper
understanding. He reminded Bashimov the United States cannot
and does not "control" U.S. journalists. He added that a
hallmark of democracy is a free press that can criticize
government and uncover corruption and other problems that
harm the lives of citizens and hinder the economic and
political development of the nation.
4. (C) Bashimov looked pained. He said, "You know I
understand that, but many, many here don't. Articles like
these have the potential to harm the positive trends in our
new bilateral relationship."
5. (C) COMMENT: Assuming more foreign journalists gain
access to Turkmenistan, there will be more "negative
reporting" that will set the Turkmenistan government's teeth
on edge. We will use each opportunity to continue to nudge
this government toward a better understanding of freedom of
the press. Considering the appalling quality of their
government-controlled media, that day of enlightenment is
probably far off. END COMMENT.