Turkmenistan4 February 2009
In joint open letter, eight NGOs urge president to include imprisoned journalists in amnesty
Reporters Without Borders and seven other NGOs including the Russian human rights group Memorial sent an open letter to Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov yesterday urging him to release imprisoned journalists as part of the amnesty that will be announced on 19 February, national flag day in Turkmenistan.
The Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, which is based in Bulgaria and is one of the letter’s signatories, has received more than 5,000 letters in support of Sapardurdy Khadjiyev and Annakurban Amanklychev, who were sentenced to seven years in prison in 2006 for helping a French journalist make a TV documentary about Turkmenistan. More letters arrive every day.
Recalling that President Berdymukhamedov has on several occasions spoken in favour of reforms, the letter said including journalists in the amnesty would send a strong signal that would be received favourably by the international community.
The letter also urged President Berdymukhamedov to order an investigation into Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent Ogulsapar Muradova’s death in detention on 12 September 2006. Muradova was serving a six-year prison sentence which she had received in the same case as Khadjiyev and Amanklychev.
Turkmenistan is ranked 171st out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. No independent or privately-owned news media is allowed to operate in the country. President-for-life Saparmurad Niyazov’s death in December 2006 followed by Berdymukhamedov’s election as his successor raised hopes of democratic reforms which have not yet been realised.