Reporters Without Borders voice outrage today at the ³House of Free Creativity² that President Separmurad Nyazov inaugurated on 17 October in Ashgabat and dedicated to the free press. A 10-storey building in the form of a book that shines at night, it can receive up to 200 journalists in air-conditioned rooms equipped with computers and Internet access. It was built with help from the French industrial group Bouygues at a cost of 17 million dollars.
"It was a crude and outrageous provocation by President Nyazov to inaugurate this centre and highlight its modernity and comfort when there is no free press in Turkmenistan and only the official media are able to function," the press freedom organisation said.
"Just a month ago, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Ogulsapar Muradova died under torture in a high-security prison reserved for those the authorities regard as their enemies," Reporters Without Borders added.
Muradova had been sentenced along with fixer Annakurban Amanklychev and human rights activist Sapardurdy Khajiyev in August to six years in prison simply for helping prepare a report about Turkmenistan for the ³Envoyé Spécial² programme on the French TV station France 2.
"We have been without news of these activists since then, and we fear for their lives," Reporters Without Borders said. "Their relatives have lost their jobs, are being held incommunicado, and fear they could be sent into internal exile in a remote part of the country."
The organisation continued: "This is the treatment that Nyazov reserves for the free press. We are outraged by his attempt to pose as the media’s defender. He is one of the world’s worst Œpress freedom predators." No building, however impressive and costly, will change that."
President Nyazov has just announced that he would pardon more than 10,000 prisoners for this year¹s independence day ceremonies. "We urge the Turkmen authorities to free all the journalists and human rights activists imprisoned in their country," Reporters Without Borders added.
Reporters Without Borders