PRESS RELEASE Reporters Without Borders calls on the Turkmen authorities to allow husband-and-wife journalists Annamamed Myatiyev and Elena Myatiyeva to travel to the Netherlands, where Myatiyev needs to undergo an operation for a detached retina. They were prevented from flying on 28 June.
“The freedom to travel abroad and return to one’s country is a fundamental right,” Reporters Without Borders said. “When the purpose of the trip abroad is medical, the government’s refusal to permit it seems to be an act of pointless and incomprehensible cruelty. Whether the government itself or a state agency was responsible, it abused its authority.”
Myatiyev and his wife were told they were banned from leaving the country when they tried to fly from Ashgabat international airport on 28 June. They were also subjected to a thorough search for information “defaming Turkmenistan.”
The authorities refused to give them an explanation when they went to the interior ministry the next day to find out why they were forbidden from travelling abroad. On returning to their home in the northern city of Dashoguz, they found their phone line had been disconnected and the quality of their Internet connection had deteriorated markedly.
Both Myatiyev and his wife worked for several years for the government daily Neutralniy Turkmenistan before being fired. Myatiyeva was fired in 2002 for attending a training seminar for journalists in Sweden. When Myatiyev was fired in July of last year, he was told it was because of the detached retina from which he had been suffering for the previous few months.
After he underwent an initial operation in the Netherlands, doctors told him he needed another one quickly to prevent his condition leading to blindness.
Turkmenistan was ranked 173rd out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. No independent media are tolerated and journalists are constantly hounded.
Two journalists and human rights activists, Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadjiyev, are currently serving eight-year jail sentences for helping to make a report about Turkmenistan for the French TV programme “Envoyé spécial.” A third journalist and human rights activist, Ogulsapar Muradova, who also helped to make the report, died in detention on 12 September 2006 after a severely beating.