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RFE/RL Turkmen Journalist Held Incommunicado
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Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN), based in the Netherlands, has interviewed a Kazakh man who claimed he shared a jail cell with Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, a contributor to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service and other independent outlets, who has been held at an undisclosed location for almost a year on charges that are widely believed to have been fabricated.

Nepeskuliev, 35, went missing in July while visiting the Caspian coastal resort area of Avaza.

His relatives later tracked him down at a detention center in a settlement near Avaza.

Saparmamed Nepeskuliev
Saparmamed Nepeskuliev

Authorities at the facility said he was being held for possessing "narcotic" pills.

Nepeskuliev's relatives told RFE/RL in September 2015 that they had learned that he had been sentenced to three years in prison on August 31.

The man in the video -- whose name is given as Yerik Supushev -- said that he had been charged with contraband by a Turkmen court in 2015 before being released in January.

He says that he and Nepeskuliev were treated harshly in prison because of Nepeskuliev's work as a journalist for RFE/RL and that Nepeskuliev failed a drugs test because he had been set up by authorities after innocently taking medicine for a stomachache.

(The full video can be seen here.)

Reporters Without Borders has long called on Turkmen authorities to provide full details about Nepeskuliev's current status "and to free him without delay."

Turkmenistan consistently ranks at the bottom of world rankings for press freedom.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan's parliament has given initial approval to a bill banning foreign individuals and organizations from owning and establishing media outlets in the country.

The proposed legislation also bans activities in the country of media outlets financially supported by foreign countries.

Lawmakers approved the first reading of the bill on June 22 by a vote of 79-30.

The text needs to be approved by parliament in its second and third readings and signed by the president before coming into force.

Civil right activists have protested the bill, saying its main goal is to close RFE/RL's bureau in Bishkek, which has been a major independent source of information in the Central Asian country for decades and is also broadcast by the country's main state broadcaster.

RFE/RL is funded by the U.S. Congress.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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