Dear President Barroso,
Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends media freedom, would like to refer you to the press freedom situation in Turkmenistan as you are about to visit that country. In particular, we would like to draw your attention to the plight of two imprisoned journalists and human rights activists, Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadjiyev. They were arrested together with Ogulsapar Muradova for helping to make a documentary about Turkmenistan for “Envoyé spécial,” a current affairs programme broadcast by the French state-owned TV station France 2. They also gathered information about the human rights situation for the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation. Ms. Muradova died in detention in September 2006 as a result of mistreatment.
Mr. Amanklychev and Mr. Khadjiyev were sentenced to seven years in prison in August 2006. After a long time without any news of them, we learned that they were being held in Turkmenbashi prison in the west of the country, a prison with a reputation for the most appalling conditions. Turkmenistan is ruled by one of the world’s most brutal and absolute dictatorships. Cut off from the world, its impoverished population is subjected to a police state that shows no respect for human life and dignity. Those who, like these two journalists and human rights activists, are regarded as enemies of the regime are exposed to the most terrible forms of violence. Year after year, Turkmenistan has been one of the last three countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. In 2010, it was ranked 176th out of 178 countries.
The United Nations working group on arbitrary detention urged the Turkmen authorities last November to release Mr. Amanklychev and Mr. Khadjiyev. Their plight has also been raised within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The European Union is pursuing a strategy of developing relations with the countries of Central Asia including Turkmenistan. We understand the logic but we would also like to believe that Europe will not abandon those who fight for respect for the most fundamental freedoms, at risk to their lives and the lives of their loved-ones.
We therefore urge you to raise the situation of Mr. Amanklychev and Mr. Khadjiyev with the Turkmen authorities and to echo the requests for their release that have been made by many civil society and international organizations including Reporters Without Borders. We thank you in advance for not sacrificing freedom of expression to the strategic interests at stake.
We look forward to your reply,
Jean-François Julliard Secretary-General
Reporters Without Borders.