PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Turkmen Service correspondent Amanmyrat Bugayev was involved in a car accident and pronounced dead on April 3. The veteran journalist was returning by taxi to his home in Ashgabat from an assignment to cover massive flooding in Turkmenistan’s western Balkan Province. Bugayev, the father of Turkmen Service editor Toymyrat Bugaev, was 69 years old.
Bugayev had worked for the Service, known locally as Radio Azatlyk, since 2002. He covered the most pressing issues affecting ordinary Turkmen citizens, from economic difficulties to social problems. He had recently written four books about Turkmen history, but told RFE/RL colleagues he had not yet found a publisher.
[One of Bugayev’s final published reports from Turkmenistan was about a deadly car crash on March 31 on the same highway where he lost his life, that killed four people and injured 10.]
Bugayev’s was one of the few remaining independent voices reporting from within Turkmenistan, a notoriously closed country. He was an experienced and active journalist, writer, publicist and poet.
He first became known to the Turkmen public in the 1970s, when famed musical storyteller (bakhshi) Saha Jepbarov sang one of his poems, "Hey, Desert!" A television news and periodical editor during the Soviet era, Bugayev headed the Literary Fund of Turkmenistan and was a secretary of the Writers' Union during the early days of Turkmenistan’s independence, following the Soviet Union’s collapse.
In 2001 Bugayev was fired from his job and was banned from publishing in the Turkmen press after he openly expressed criticism of then-President Saparmurad Niyazov. He later said the dismissal was useful to both Turkmen literature and himself, since it afforded him the opportunity to visit libraries and read books.
Amanmyrat Bugayev is survived by his wife and two sons.