RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service: Radio Azatlyk
Radio Azatlyk is the only international Turkmen-language media reporting independently on political, economic, cultural, and security issues from inside the world’s most closed country.
- RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, locally known as Azatlyk Radiosy, relies on an unofficial network of contributors to provide timely, multimedia news and information about Turkmenistan that is rigorously suppressed by the government and unavailable anywhere else.
- It is available in Turkmen and Russian on the Internet, social networks, satellite, and SW radio, but because of pervasive Internet filtering by the government, users must rely on circumvention software to access its websites.
- The Service is dedicated to reporting that directly affects people’s lives, including stories about food shortages, wage arrears, forced labor, homelessness, housing conditions, and travel restrictions. Its coverage has helped it build credibility and trust among its audiences, and sometimes prompted government action to improve facilities and social services.
- Azatlyk contributors, and their family members, have suffered brutal attacks by Turkmen authorities in retaliation for their reporting. During 2015 – 2016, six correspondents in its local reporting network resigned from their jobs as a result of a government-sponsored intimidation campaign targeting them because of their work. Turkmen security services routinely track down followers of Azatlyk’s social networks. Persons who associate with the Service are physically attacked, threatened, publicly shamed, and imprisoned. Among recent cases:
- In April 2019, contributor Amanmyrat Bugaev was killed in a suspicious car accident as he was returning to his home in Ashgabat from an assignment to cover massive flooding in Turkmenistan’s western Balkan Province.
- In March 2018, 20-year-old student Omurzak Omarkuliyev was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison and forcibly disappeared after giving an interview to Azatlyk. There has been at least one similar case since.
- In May 2018, contributor Saparmamed Nepeskuliev was released from prison after serving a three-year sentence on narcotics charges that international rights observers believe were politically motivated.
- In December 2016, contributor Khudayberdy Allashov and his mother were arrested on charges of possessing chewing tobacco that rights groups have said were politically motivated. Both were released in February 2017.
- International media monitors consistently rank Turkmenistan’s media record among the worst in the world. Reporters Without Borders placed it at the absolute bottom of its 2019 Press Freedom Index, ranking it for the first time below North Korea.
January – December, 2019
- Website (Turkmen and Russian): 6.2 million visits; 9.9 million page views; 49.2 million unique visitors
- Facebook (in Turkmen): 1.2 million video views; 312,000 engaged users; 176,000 followers
- YouTube (in Turkmen): 19.9 million views; 53,000 subscribers
Updated: January 2020
Facts & Stats about Turkmenistan
- Population: 5.76 million (World Bank estimate, 2017)
- Most Common Languages: Turkmen
- Press Freedom Index (Freedom House): Not Free, ranked 198 out of 198 (2017)
- Press Freedom Index (RSF): 180 out of 180 (2019)
- Corruption Index (Transparency Int.): 161 out of 180 (2018)
- Global Peace Index (IES): 119 out of 163 (2018)
- Human Rights Watch: Report on Turkmenistan (2019)
- Amnesty International: Report on Turkmenistan (2017/2018)