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RFE/RL correspondents harassed and threatened by intelligence officers in Turkmenistan

File photo shows sunset in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan voted in December last in a parliamentary election meant to show that the energy-rich central Asian nation was shedding its autocratic past, but Western observers said nothing had changed.Photo: Agence France-Presse (AFP) / Mustafa Ozer

Two Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondents are being continually harassed 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, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has reported.

“Similar situations in the past have ended tragically, so we urge President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to intervene at once,” RSF 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.”

A 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 June 20 and was tortured while held for two weeks.

RSF wrote to President Berdymukhammedov on December 11 urging him to take Turkmenistan down the road of democratisation. Turkmenistan was ranked 171st out of 173 countries in the 2008 RSF press freedom index.

Date posted: January 10, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 269