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HRW Urges Turkmenistan to Allow Journalist to Work Without Hindrance

FILE - Soltan Achilova, 2011 photo.
FILE - Soltan Achilova, 2011 photo.

Human Rights Watch has urged Turkmen authorities to ensure members of the media can carry out their work without reprisal or undue interference.

In the latest in a series of attacks against journalists, Soltan Achilova, a veteran Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Turkmen Service freelancer was questioned by police on October 25, 2016, and then assaulted and robbed by unknown assailants believed to be from the state security service, the rights group said Monday.

Achilova, 67, one of few correspondents reporting from Turkmenistan, was taking pictures of people outside a supermarket in the capital, Ashgabat, at the time of the incident.

She told Human Rights Watch one of the supermarket’s salesmen noticed her, and with a policeman who had been nearby, started to chase her.

Achilova has covered a variety of social issues, such as drinking water shortages, long lines to buy groceries, and healthcare problems for the RFE/RL’s Radio Azatlyk and has repeatedly been targeted for her work, as have her colleagues.

“Achilova’s ordeal was clearly yet another orchestrated attempt to silence a critic,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Journalists should be able to work without being assaulted or detained by police for doing their job,” Denber said.

Turkmenistan's authoritarian government does not allow media freedom and controls virtually all print and electronic media. Internet access remains heavily state-controlled; and many websites are blocked, including those of foreign news organizations.

Reporters for foreign media outlets often cannot get visas to enter Turkmenistan.