Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on December 18 urged the OSCE’s new representative on freedom of the media to press for the release of a journalist jailed in Turkmenistan for posting a photo on a news website.
Nurgeldy Halikov’s conviction “exemplifies the absurdity of the trumped-up charges used by the authorities to gag the free press’s few remaining representatives. He risks being tortured in prison,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement on December 18.
Turkmen.news, a website based in the Netherlands for which Halikov works, reported earlier this week that its editors had learned that the journalist was found guilty of fraud and handed the prison sentence in mid-September.
The 26-year-old Halikov has been in custody since July 13, a day after he reposted a photo of a visiting World Health Organization delegation on Turkmen.news, which specializes in covering human rights in Turkmenistan.
The delegation was in Turkmenistan to evaluate the possible spread of COVID-19 in the country, where officials have insisted that there are no coronavirus cases.
Turkmenistan is led by authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who heads one of the world's most oppressive governments.
Halikov’s family had been reluctant to talk about the case amid hopes -- ultimately dashed -- that he would be amnestied on International Day of Neutrality, which is celebrated on December 12.
“Turkmenistan is a black hole for news and information. The media are completely controlled by the state and few journalists take the risk of doing independent reporting,” according to Cavelier.
“We urge the authorities to free him at once and we ask Teresa Ribeiro, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s representative on freedom of the media, to firmly condemn his arbitrary detention,” he said.