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President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov
The repressive Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has passed a new law guaranteeing freedom of the media.

The law, which came into effect on January 4, states that "nobody can prohibit or impede the media from disseminating information of public interest" and that citizens of Turkmenistan have the right to use any form of media to express their opinions.

The new law also prohibits censorship.

Turkmenistan routinely ranks among the worst countries in the world in terms of media freedom, with the United Nations describing the state as wielding "absolute" control over the country's television, newspapers, and magazines.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is a shareholder in nearly all of the country's leading newspapers.

Turkmenistan's first private newspaper, "Rysgal," was launched in 2011 by one of the government's two political parties.

Based on reporting by ITAR-TASS and Golos Rossii
Dovletmyrat Yazkuliyev
Writers from 19 countries have received 2012 Hellman/Hammett grants for their commitment to free expression.

The award is administered by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) and is given annually to writers who have been targets of political persecution or human rights abuses.

This year's 41 honorees include Dovletmyrat Yazkuliyev, a freelance contributor for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service.

HRW says Yazkuliyev is "known for his reporting on sensitive issues in Turkmenistan."

In 2011, Yazkuliyev was arrested, tried, and convicted of "influencing or abetting an attempted suicide by a family member."

Most observers say the charge was official retribution for his reporting.

He received a presidential pardon in October 2011.

Those honored also include three Iranians, two Pakistanis, and one Tajik.

The awards are worth up to $10,000 each.

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