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Turkmen President Not Happy With State Media, Warns Of Government Reshuffle

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Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (file photo)

ASHGABAT -- Turkmenistan's authoritarian leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has warned of a cabinet reshuffle after criticizing the government for what he sees as its failure to get state-controlled media to "report the country’s successes" and "shortcomings in resolving economic problems."

Berdymukhammedov's warning came after Deputy Prime Minister Mahrijemal Mammedova, who is responsible for media and culture issues, presented a report at a government session that was broadcast by state television on September 4.

Mammedova was appointed to her post in early July.

At the same session last week, Berdymukhammedov, signed a decree relieving Deputy Education Minister Merdan Govshudov of his duties for what he called "serious shortcomings and the failure to properly carry out his duties."

Berdymukhammedov frequently precedes the firings of government ministers and their deputies with this kind of public humiliation, and the fate of many such officials remains unknown.

There are no independent media outlets functioning In the tightly controlled Central Asian nation. Information from nonstate media is scarce and often available only via the Internet.

Turkmenistan's economy has been struggling for months, with government revenues depleted, partly as a result of unsuccessful energy deals and low global prices for natural gas, the Caspian nation's main export.

Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov in 2006.

Like Niyazov, Berdymukhammedov long relied on energy revenues to subsidize prices for basic goods and utilities to help maintain his grip on power.

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