(Prague, Czech Republic)
In Bakharden, Turkmenistan today, a contributor to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service (Radio Azatlyk) was found beaten and tortured for refusing to sign a letter in which he agreed to stop reporting for RFE/RL.
Three days ago, Sazak Durdymuradov, a history teacher whose commentary and analysis for Radio Azatlyk often focuses on educational and constitutional reform, was seized by Turkmen police from his home in Bakharden. Upon discovering Durdymuradov today at a detention facility run by the national security office (former KGB), his wife said he told her he "wanted to die."
This incident occurred as the Turkmenistan government was hosting a "Dialogue on Human Rights" with the European Union in the nation's capital, Ashgabat.
"This is a hideous incident, made all the more so by the fact that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov's government was engaged in an EU dialogue about human rights at the same time that Mr. Durdymuradov was being tortured by its agents," said RFE/RL president Jeffrey Gedmin. "The only appropriate response to this act is condemnation. I call on the EU and international community to hold Turkmenistan accountable for its human rights abuses, and not allow the government to escape censure with empty promises of reform."
Yesterday, Amnesty International issued a report declaring that Turkmen authorities regularly target independent journalists, including RFE/RL correspondents, in an attempt to silence independent voices.
Turkmenistan-based journalists for RFE/RL's Radio Azatlyk say government intimidation and harassment is on the rise. Earlier this month, Turkmen authorities blocked several RFE/RL reporters from traveling to a training conference. In another case, an RFE/RL journalist was told that her reporting puts her family at risk. RFE/RL journalists are denied accreditation and often deprived of Internet and telephone connections, placed under surveillance and prohibited from visiting family members abroad.Read more from the RFE/RL Newsroom - Turkmenistan: Activists, Journalists Harassed Ahead Of EU MeetingRFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Radio Azatlyk, broadcasts six hours a day of uncensored news and information into Turkmenistan from RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. The Turkmen Service was established in 1953 as part of Radio Liberty broadcasting to the Soviet Union. Due to the nature of the current ruling regime, scientific audience surveys cannot be conducted; however, the number of emails, SMS messages, and letters from listeners suggests a large listening audience.