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In Central Asia, Kerry Must Demand Release of Imprisoned Journalists

Austria -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds a press conference following a day of meetings in Vienna, October 23, 2015.

On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Central Asia, the U.S.-based advocacy group Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) has called on him to press for media freedom and the release of journalists in the region who have been imprisoned because of their journalism.

In a letter issued yesterday to the Secretary and five U.S. ambassadors serving in the region, CPJ cites the Secretary's strong record on press freedom during his time as a U.S. Senator and in his current post as U.S. Secretary of State.The letter urges him to "publicly call on government officials in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan to release all journalists imprisoned in relation to their work."

The letter references the U.S. State Department's own documentation that shows systemic violations of media freedom among the Central Asian states.

RFE/RL contributor Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, among those mentioned in CPJ's letter, is in custody in a Turkmen prison on drug-related charges that Reporters Without Borders has called "trumped up," and which RFE/RL believes are retribution for his work.

He was detained on July 7 and has since been held in communicado in a case that rights groups say could constitute "enforced disappearance," a grave crime under international law.