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Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have agreed to a media exchange that may prompt the Turkmen authorities to relax tight media controls, reports News Briefing (NB) Central Asia, as service of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

The Kazak and Turkmen presidents agreed on 28 May to increase the availability of television broadcasts and distribute newspapers to each other's country in a bid to preserve their "common cultural, educational and information space."

NBCentralAsia says Turkmenistan's media is so tightly controlled that people in Kazakhstan are unlikely to learn much about what it is really like. All media outlets in Turkmenistan are state-owned, and radio and television channels broadcast only in the Turkmen language. It is illegal to subscribe to or import foreign newspapers and journals, and local journalists who cooperate with foreign media outlets are persecuted.

The media in Kazakhstan, by comparison, are mostly divided among large commercial companies that represent influential political and business groups who dictate the editorial line.

The exchange could prove unequal, says NBCentralAsia - Kazak media could be censored by the Turkmen authorities, while more objective information coming from Kazakhstan might loosen the Turkmen authorities' iron grip.

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- NBCentralAsia on IWPR:
(12 June 2007)

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