Reporters Without Borders is very worried by the harassment of two Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondents in Turkmenistan. Dovletmurat Yazguliev and Osman Hallyev, who report for RFE/RL’s Turkmen service from the provinces, have both been subjected to threats and intimidation by local intelligence officers in the last two weeks.
“Similar situations in the past have ended tragically, so we urge President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to intervene at once,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If this has been done at the initiative of local officials, they must be brought to order. If not, we reiterate our appeal to the president to order the Turkmen security apparatus to stop treating journalists as enemies and criminals.”
An RFE/RL correspondent since September 2006, Hallyev has been under virtual house arrest in the northeastern province of Lebap since the start of January after being held for several hours in the provincial jail. He said he notified the local prosecutor’s office about his plight without getting any response.
Hallyev was already subjected to harassment last month while covering Turkmenistan’s parliamentary elections. Several close relatives have lost their jobs as a result of his complaints, his phone lines have been cut and his personal Internet connection is hardly working.
Yazguliev, who has been reporting for RFE/RL from the eastern province of Akhal since October, said he and his wife were summoned at the end of last month to a local government office where intelligence officers questioned him about his work. They threatened him with reprisals if he did not stop working for RFE/RL, which is based in Prague and is financed by the US government. He says he intends to continue reporting for RFE/RL for the time being.
One of RFE/RL’s provincial correspondents in Turkmenistan, Sazak Durdymuradov, was arrested by intelligence officers on 20 June and was tortured while held for two weeks.
Reporters Without Borders wrote to President Berdymukhammedov on 11 December urging him to take Turkmenistan down the road of democratisation. Turkmenistan was ranked 171st out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.