Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Time's Root Canal for Doc Gurby

Who speaks for the Turkmens? It's not easy, but As Good As News remains ever vigilant as the official blog of Turkmenistan.

Turkmens Curtail Cult Surrounding Ex-Leader - Reporter Michael Schwirtz covers Turkmenistan President Doc Gurby's decision abolishing a national holiday established to worship his dictatorial predecessor Niyazov. The Times uses this positive news as an excuse to launch another unprovoked attack on Doc Gurby. While the story spends a few words summarizing developments under the Gurby administration - Gurby, a former dentist with a name so long we have vowed never to type it again, has reformed education, courted foreign investment, eased Internet restrictions and called for greater human rights - the bulk of this short piece trashes Doc for not turning Turkmenistan into a free market democracy in a year.

Kudos Mr. Schwirtz, you managed to complete your root canal without once using "reclusive" thereby establishing the NY Times record, but going to the thesaurus for "hermetic" to accompany the ever popular "authoritarian" is not the answer. Next time write a news story - Doc Gurby ends Niyazov Day and does not replace it with Gurby day - full stop - without including an additional ten paragraphs of your opinion, buttressed by your hand picked experts, that Doc Gurby has failed to turn Turkmenistan into Switzerland quickly enough to suit you.

While the story opens with the abolished holiday, the bulk of the purported news piece reports what Doc has not done. This painful operation starts with the objective "unclear whether reforms will lead to... or simply a recasting of the ubiquitous statues of the former leader in his own image". Why is this unclear, Mr.Schwirtz, according to your own facts the holiday was reduced to a celebration of flag day - there was no announcement of a new Gurby Day. Are you reporting or predicting? Why not speculate on authoritarian China's possible return to a cult of personality each time a statue of Chairman Mao keels over.

Carefully selected opinion is then used to complete the operation with no anaesthesia. "We are not seeing any radical systematic change", " reforms are cosmetic", "He wants a type of free country with market economy, but he doesn't understand what that is." Where is the quote that says "The President is moving cautiously, but each change he makes is a step in the right direction." How about, "Turkmenistan went from a feudal system caught in the middle ages to a far flung, downtrodden outpost in the authoritarian Soviet empire to the plaything of a deranged dictator. There is no history of democracy, free press or market economy. To announce a free market democracy without laying an institutional groundwork might make the Times happy, but it would doom Turkmenistan to another generation of sorrow."

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