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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 17:11 GMT
Turkmen leader scorns media praise
President Niyazov
President Niyazov rules Turkmenistan with an iron grip
The Turkmen President, Saparmurat Niyazov, has told the media to spend less time praising him and ordered state television to remove his logo from the screen.

President Niyazov, who has styled himself Turkmenbashi, or Father of the Turkmen people, said on state television that there was no need for the logo, a small bronze-coloured image of him.

Turkmen state TV with President Niyazov's logo on screen
State television told to remove the president's logo

He also told music programme makers that he was "ashamed" that they only broadcast songs about him.

Praise for the president is all-pervasive in the Turkmen media and every news bulletin leads with a story about his activities.

"Your concert repertoire so far is not original, so you make me ashamed every time by singing only about Turkmenbashi," Mr Niyazov told media chiefs. "It's the same with TV programmes. Please, remove my logo image from the screen - there is no need for it."

President Niyazov has ruled the impoverished Central Asian republic for 14 years and is the focus of a huge personality cult unrivalled in the former Soviet Union.

Niyazov's palace
Niyazov's palace rises over central Ashgabat

He said the press "should not concentrate on the president's name, but publish other - critical - material". But he added that criticism "should not be used to blacken an individual, but should show true shortcomings instead".

Towns, schools, roads and monuments all bear his image and name.

Schoolchildren's compulsory reading consists of Mr Niyazov's collected works.

The authorities do not tolerate any opposition political parties or independent press.

A 75-metre arch supporting a gold-plated statue of Mr Niyazov, who is president for life, dominates the centre of the capital Ashgabat.

Last August Mr Niyazov launched a television channel named after himself, called the Epoch of Turkmenbashi.

Mr Niyazov also announced that he had halved the salary of the head of the national meteorology service, for "failing to provide a reliable weather forecast in Turkmenistan".

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See also:

13 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Turkmen face smoking ban
26 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Turkmen government goes on health walk
18 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
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12 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Turkmen poll controversy
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