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RFE/RL Welcomes Release of Turkmen Journalist, Calls For Additional Steps

Khudayberdi Allashov
Khudayberdi Allashov

WASHINGTON -- RFE/RL welcomed the release from prison of Turkmen contributor Khudayberdy Allashov and his mother, while noting that another RFE/RL journalist remains in prison and other correspondents continue to be subject to attacks because of their reporting.

RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said, “We are thrilled that Khudayberdy is out of prison, but remain deeply concerned about our colleague Saparmamed Nepeskuliev,” an RFE/RL contributor who has been held virtually incommunicado since July, 2015. “Turkmenistan has taken an important step,” Kent said. “Now the government has an opportunity to establish a new standard by releasing Saparmamed and ending its unjust campaign against independent journalism.”

Reliable sources in Turkmenistan told RFE/RL on February 22 that Allashov and his mother were released on February 15 after a court convicted them of possessing chewing tobacco and handed each a three-year suspended prison sentence.

Both are currently at home in the northern city of Koneurgench and under police surveillance. They are not allowed to use any communication tools, the sources told RFE/RL.

Allashov’s arrest in early December was part of a three-year campaign carried out by Turkmen authorities targeting RFE/RL’s local network of reporters. It followed three separate physical attacks in November, 2016 on veteran RFE/RL contributor Soltan Achilova, and a threat made that same month against correspondent Rovshen Yazmuhamedov to impose a suspended jail sentence he received in 2013 in connection with his journalism. Nepeskuliev’s 2015 arrest on narcotics charges, widely believed by rights groups to have been fabricated in retaliation for his video reporting, followed an 18-month period during which no fewer than six RFE/RL correspondents left their jobs as a result of intimidation tactics used against them and their family members.

The United States, the OSCE, and media advocacy organizations have condemned Turkmenistan’s persecution of journalists. Turkmneistan is ranked 198th of 199 countries surveyed in Freedom House’s 2016 Freedom of the Press report, ahead only of North Korea.

About RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service
Because of prohibitive political conditions, RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service has no presence inside Turkmenistan, but it works through a local network of contributors to provide the country’s only Turkmen-language alternative to state-controlled media. The Service actively engages its audience via cross-border radio, the Internet and on social networks, logging an average of 440,000 visits and 800,000 page views to its website every month in 2016.