Turkmenistan will create a television channel named in honor of the authoritarian country’s former leader, state media said on Friday.
The reclusive Central Asian nation bordering the Caspian Sea has been ruled by the Berdymukhamedov family for nearly two decades.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist turned autocrat, officially stepped down as president last year and was replaced by his son, Serdar Berdymukhamedov.
But the 65-year-old, who enjoyed a personality cult during his tenure, bears the title of “Arkadag” (Hero Protector) and continues to dominate in his formal capacity as “leader” of the Turkmen nation.
Officials said this month Turkmenistan is spending close to $5 billion, the equivalent of around a tenth of GDP, to build a city named Arkadag in honor of the former leader.
The new channel, also called Arkadag, was set up by presidential decree, state media said.
Its goal is to “prepare highly professional programs that skillfully reveal and promote the great deeds and achievements of our neutral and independent Turkmenistan.”
The channel will start broadcasting in September with 15 hours of programming a day.
Turkmenistan remains one of the world’s most isolated countries, and, according to Reporters Without Borders, ranks 177th out of 180 for press freedom, ahead of Iran, Eritrea and North Korea.
Its economy depends hugely on gas exports to China and to a lesser extent to Russia and Iran.