Threats to Journalists: Turkmenistan
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- In April 2011, RFE Turkmen Service contributor Amangelen Shapudakov was confined to a psychiatric hospital after he criticized a local government official for corruption. This marks the second time in three years that Turkmen authorities have committed an RFE contributor to a psychiatric facility.
- Prague-based broadcaster Allamourad Rakhimov was refused entry to his native Turkmenistan at the Ashgabat airport on May 19, 2010 and put back on a plane to Prague. Rakhimov had a valid visa, but was regarded by officials from the Migration Office as an “impermissible subject” and therefore disallowed entry. He believes he was banned as a result of his work for RFE/RL.
- Turkmen Service correspondent Osman Hallyev was placed under house arrest in January 2009 by local agents of the country’s state security services. A long-time victim of harassment and police surveillance, Hallyev reports that his son, daughter-in-law and son-in-law were recently dismissed from their jobs as a consequence of his reporting and that he has received death threats. The media freedom group Reporters Without Borders provided1500 Euros assistance to the family.
- Ashgabat correspondent Dovletmyrat Yazguliyev was interrogated by state security officials in December 2008 and warned to stop working for RFE/RL. They threatened to have his relatives dismissed from their jobs and make his family’s life “difficult.” Yazguliyev’s wife, Guncha Gurbanseidova, was summoned by state security officials on November 15 and questioned about her husband’s work for RFE/RL. These incidents follow Turkmenistan’s crackdown on journalists in the run-up to December’s parliamentary elections, when RFE/RL correspondents were placed under increased surveillance and had their mobile phones blocked.
- Sazak Durdymuradov, a contributor to RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, was beaten and tortured in June 2008 for refusing to sign a letter agreeing to stop reporting for RFE/RL. This incident occurred as the Turkmenistan government was hosting a “Dialogue on Human Rights” with the European Union in the nation’s capital, Ashgabat. As the result of an extensive pressure campaign, supported by several international NGOs, the US State Department and the OSCE, Durdymuradov was released on July 5 and soon thereafter reinstated in his job. He has resumed contributions to RFE/RL’s Turkmen service.
- RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondents in Turkmenistan are not allowed to travel abroad. In Spring 2008, four correspondents could not leave Turkmenistan to participate in an RFE/RL-organized journalism training session in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. One correspondent, Nurmamedov Myrat was physically removed from an airplane in April 2008; a letter to the Turkmenistan State Migration Service asking for a justification for such action remains unanswered. The family members of correspondents and the relatives of Prague-based Turkmen Service staff are also denied the right to travel abroad.
- Turkmen Service correspondents in Turkmenistan and their family members are regularly harassed by Turkmen officials in order to force them to end their work with RFE/RL. Two correspondents, one in Lebap Province and a second in the capital, Ashgabat were threatened in separate incidents in December 2007; in April 2007, another Ashgabat-based correspondent was detained along with members of his family and interrogated for eight hours at the Ministry of National Security. The Turkmen government has ignored RFE/RL’s repeated efforts, most recently in February and April, 2008, to obtain accreditation for its journalists. Turkmen Service correspondents are regularly visited by security service agents, denied medical care and subject to constant surveillance. Their relatives have been expelled from university and school programs. They are unable to obtain internet connections in their home, and find their telephone communications blocked for weeks at a time.
- Ogulsapar Muradova, 58, a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service in Ashgabat, was put in prison and died mysteriously in September 2006 after a month of incarceration. The exact place, time and cause of her death remain unknown. Her family was not permitted to see her after a mock trial in August 2006 where she was charged with possession of illegal ammunition which had been planted in her automobile. Her adult children, allowed to retrieve her body on September 14, 2006, said it had marks of torture and a visible head wound.