Turkmenistan President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was reportedly so upset when he saw a cockroach wandering across the desk during a live TV news programme that he immediately got on the phone and sacked 30 of the station’s staff.
Apparently the horrible insect reared its ugly head during the 9pm broadcast of nightly Turkmen news channel Vatan. In full view of the watching millions, it proceeded to take a leisurely 30-second crawl around the desk, before disappearing off-camera (perhaps to enjoy the hospitality in the green room). The crew clearly didn’t notice, because they went on to screen the broadcast again two hours later – complete with uninvited guest.
According to news website Kronika Turkmenistan, the president was so hopping mad at this blight on his country’s image that he immediately fired 30 people – including journalists, producers and technical staff. This might sound like a fairly draconian punishment, but the suspicion is that this may have been the roach that broke the camel’s back. The president has apparently been trying to get the channel to raise its game for several months – particularly after the debacle on New Year’s Eve, when the technicians at the station were so drunk that they forgot to screen his New Year address until 3am (as you’d imagine, the president was not amused).
What’s more, President Berdymukhamedov is actually pretty liberal by Turkmen standards. Since taking over in December 2006, he’s been busy reversing some of the more bizarre rulings of his hilariously bonkers predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov (or ‘His Excellency Saparmurat Niyazov Türkmenbasy, President of Turkmenistan and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers,’ to give him his full title), whose contributions to Turkmen cultural life included bans on opera, ballet, gold teeth, car radios, video games, long hair and beards. Niyazov also fostered a lavish personality cult, as part of which he renamed every month of the year after members of his family and built a gigantic statue of himself on Turkmenistan’s tallest building that constantly rotated so it was always in the sun.
No news yet as to whether the cockroach managed to survive the bloodbath at Vatan – but given that cockroaches can live through a nuclear war and even survive for several weeks after decapitation, we reckon that Turkmenistan’s newest TV star will probably be just fine. Rumour has it that Channel 4 executives are flying over to sign him up for Celebrity Big Brother even as we speak...