Make Turkmenistan prettier – rid one satellite dish at a time
Media and Internet, Politics and Society, Turkmenistan5 Comments
Editor’s note: Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov has declared satellite dishes a stain on Ashgabat’s cityscape — but is it just a ploy to curtail the seeping influence of outside media? neweurasia’s Tomyris thinks so. “Maybe satellite dishes are not beautiful for the eyes of those who love landscape,” she writes, “But [they] are as beautiful to the media guru’s eye as a mountain is to the hiker’s.
The news that Turkmenistan is converting to digital broadcasting and building a new television station outside Ashgabat seems fantastic for advancement in the country’s media situation. But, wait a minute, there is a catch – all private satellite dishes must go.
But why? Is it because they “adversely affect the architectural and urban planning shape [of] the country’s capital“, as President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov says, or is it simply a way to control information in Turkmenistan? The latter seems more realistic – if thinking straightforwardly via the Turkmen media context.
Check out the OpenNet Initiative’s Turkmenistan page for a thorough grasp.
“Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has ordered the removal of satellite dishes from apartment blocks in a move that could restrict access to foreign television channels in the country.”
“Satellite television is one of the few means by which residents of Turkmenistan can access independent channels in a country dominated by state media.”
Also on August 18th, the Financial Tech Spotlight informed:
“Satellite dishes equipped with illegal decoders are widely popular in the country, whose news and entertainment media is almost entirely state-controlled.”
“Apartment blocks and detached houses bristle with satellite dishes in a country where state media is tightly controlled and broadband Internet access is hugely expensive.
“Most Turkmens tune into Russian, Turkish and Arabic satellite television channels to escape relentless government propaganda on the five state-owned national channels.”
This is not the fist time Berdimuhammedov’s tried to impose such a media dismantlement.
“Berdymukhamedov began his campaign against satellite dishes in 2008, when he charged the government with removing the dishes and replacing them with cable television in the capital Ashgabat.”
“However, the authorities only installed cable television in a small number of apartment buildings along the main avenues, whose residents can watch around 500 channels.”
“Turkmen leader Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ordered that “ugly” satellite dishes be removed from people’s homes in the capital Ashgabat, in a flamboyant gesture reminiscent of his eccentric predecessor”
Reuters continued saying that most of the 600,000 resident of Ashbagbat (at that time, in 2007) depended on satellite to receive television pictures.
Also in December 2007, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said:
“…But in a nationally televised speech on November 30, Berdymukhammedov seemed to take a step backward. He announced he had ordered the minister of communications to remove satellite dishes from apartment blocks in Ashgabat, the capital. In their place, he said, would go “a single powerful dish” on each building.”
“Perhaps this does not pose such a big problem,” Berdymukhammedov said, adding that the move was intended to remove a blight on the skyline and make Ashgabat a prettier city.”
During his ruling, former President Saparmurat Niyazov banned ballet and opera. Maybe Berdimuhamedov too, seeks fear in the art of dance and song, and wants to continue with his predecessor’s ugly way by banning the potential screenings of artistic performance via satellite television?
Ballet and opera aside – what’s the real reason for the anti-satellite dish sentiment being re-imposed at this exact moment in time?
Just last month, we saw how the courage of citizen journalists and digital airwaves helped Turkmen’s get their message out about the July 7th Abadan explosions – which was a way not at all favorable to Berdimuhamedov’s regime. neweurasia wrote about role social media played and the way bloggers and journalists are feeling the consequences.
BBC quotes a Turkmen human rights activist:
“If it were not for the Russian TV channels, we would have never learned what happened from our side – says social activist, NB – And now the authorities are simply looking for an opportunity to prevent such cases, when ordinary people, witnesses and sent the information and she then came back to us, in Turkmenistan, via satellite channels. For local channels in any information about the crash was not. “
On their blog, popular radio station Эхо Мoсквы writes:
“The point is that President Berdimuhamedov instructed to solve the information problem. In the future, and in principle. And he ordered to dismantle all the satellite dishes owned by citizens of Turkmenistan.”
“The events in Abadan, where the authorities made every effort to conceal from the public and the rest of the world facts of death and destruction in the arsenal explosion. Then it was the Russian media and the “Echo of Moscow” in the first place, a few days and nights passed on news of the bombings, citing and dissident sites, which, in turn, send texts, pictures and videos of explosions most ordinary citizens of Turkmenistan. In turn, virtually the entire population receives information from any rumors or news of Russian TV – Turkmen authorities from the outset denied the bombings, saying only the fire did not stock the pyrotechnics.”
And so, as a result of this information flow, Эхо Мoсквы continues:
“And so authorities went to the offensive. In order to avoid future independent reception of information from abroad, it was decided to dismantle all the satellite dishes.”
And there it is folks – Turkmenistan may very likely be trying to rid its city satellite dishes to restrict the free flow of information – especially in a 2011, global digital revolutionary climate.
Maybe satellite dishes are not beautiful for the eyes of those who love the landscapes of nature, professional architecture, historical monuments and commercial enterprise of advertising.
But, satellite dishes in Turkmenistan are as beautiful to the media guru’s eye as a mountain is to the hiker’s. There is something astoundingly enriching about seeing individual satellite dishes as symbols of education – of the transmission of flowing information – and one’s ability to be connected to the world around them. The dishes are symbols of information – news and entertainment – being brought inside and outside of a country where the media itself has hardly any rights.
Check out neweurasia’s photos of the Turkmen media tower: “In Turkmenistan, modern media and totalitarianism’s towering love affair”.
* Photo taken from Эхо Мoсквы radio station blog