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Earlier this month YouTube closed Eurasianet's account – “terminated” it, in the social media giant’s lingo – caving to a request from authoritarian Turkmenistan's state broadcaster, Watan Habarlary. We erred, YouTube says, by publishing snippets from the broadcaster’s evening news.
 
This is censorship fig-leafed with a frivolous claim by a gas-rich dictatorship.
 
About three years ago, Watan Habarlary began posting its daily news program on YouTube. Each episode runs an hour, and many minutes are dedicated to adulatory footage of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov in action: shooting guns, firing ministers, racing cars.
 
We had been republishing clips from these videos under fair use laws as outlined by YouTube’s parent company, Google: We added contextual and educational insights to the original material; we used it for non-commercial purposes; we used segments lasting just a few minutes out of the total 60.
 
Eurasianet readers know that Turkmenistan is one of the most closed countries on the planet. As Human Rights Watch says, “Turkmenistan remains an extremely repressive country. The government severely restricts all fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedoms of association, expression, and religion. … Berdymukhamedov, his relatives and their associates control all aspects of public life, and the authorities encroach on private life.”
 
By terminating our channel, YouTube blocked access to other videos, including original material shot inside Turkmenistan, that the regime must consider embarrassing – such as the first footage to emerge in 2013 of Berdymukhamedov falling off his horse during a race in Ashgabat. The government never acknowledged the mishap and our cameraman had to smuggle the tape out of the country.
 
But YouTube says that video can no longer live on its platform because we allegedly violated Watan Habarlary’s copyright elsewhere.
 
The bitter irony, it seems, is that YouTube – itself blocked in Turkmenistan – has endorsed the country’s dictatorship over one of the few independent media outlets covering it.

top stories
Azerbaijan retakes offensive in rhetorical war with Iran. In recent days Baku officials and semi-official sources have accused Iran’s armed forces of briefly invading southern Azerbaijan during last year’s war with Armenia, its clerics of running a network of secret agents in Azerbaijan, and its banks of using financial institutions in Karabakh to launder billions of dollars.
 
Kyrgyz women’s wrestling team overcomes and inspires. Kyrgyzstan's star wrestler Aisuluu Tynybekova conquered poverty, prejudice and depression to win her nation’s respect.
Uzbek soccer player’s Italian adventures inspire dreams back home. Eldor Shomurodov’s success making it into one of Europe’s most important national football leagues has generated a fresh flurry of ambition among young Uzbek players.
 
Kazakhstan’s stand-up comedians try to find their feet. One key to stand-up is knowing your audience. In Kazakhstan, where the whole idea of delivering a comic monologue to a small, dark room of strangers is still in its infancy, that means leaning into cultural tropes.

To fight urban deforestation, Kyrgyzstan issues passports to trees. Once celebrated for its greenery, Bishkek now has some of the world’s worst smog and its monumental trees are disappearing at an alarming rate.
 
China looks to Kazakh coal amid energy crisis. But how much coal Kazakhstan already sells China is a mystery, because the two sides publish different figures.

Our weekly Turkmenistan briefing: Berdymukhamedov goes traveling and lectures the WHO, while YouTube bows to Turkmen censors and takes down Eurasianet’s channel
Support Eurasianet: Help keep our journalism open to all, and influenced by none.
human rights
Families of Tajik political prisoners plead for international help. Days after one of Tajikistan’s highest-profile political prisoners was attacked in a prison hospital, his family and several others are pleading with the international community for support, saying they fear their loved ones will be murdered with the government’s connivence.
 
Uzbekistan: Spot the invisible election campaign. The incumbent dominates TV screens and frontpages, while his ostensible challengers are barely visible.
 
Kazakhstan jails political dissidents in fresh crackdown. All the defendants are strident government critics, but their activism was confined to online attacks and tiny street protests.
Karabakh
Hydropower in Karabakh: Armenians’ loss is Azerbaijan’s gain. Of the 36 plants that operated in Armenian-controlled territory before the war, only six remain under Armenian control. The hydropower production capacity in the territory decreased from 191 megawatts before the war to 79 megawatts now. 

Azerbaijan plans for resettlement in Shusha. A new development plan envisages thousands of Azerbaijanis moving back to the city. But since the plan was rolled out, Azerbaijanis have been wondering what jobs will be available for these would-be returnees.
 
Azerbaijan starts using Armenian airspace. The two adversaries have been choosing not to use one another’s air space. Now Armenians are asking why their government is allowing Azerbaijani overflights.
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Afghanistan
Uzbekistan foreign minister jets into Afghanistan for talks. Uzbekistan has not yet recognized the new Afghan government, but if the Taliban fail at creating a viable state, Uzbekistan has much to lose.
 
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan stand united on Afghanistan. Neighboring Afghanistan topped the agenda as the leaders of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan met in Tashkent this week and cemented their shared position on the need for engagement with the Taliban government. That sets them apart from Afghanistan’s other post-Soviet neighbor, Tajikistan.
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