26 November 2003


Authorities persecute Radio Liberty correspondent

Incident details

Saparmurat Ovezberdiev


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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called on the authorities to cease their harassment of Saparmurat Ovezberdiev, a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Turkmen-language service in Ashgabat. The journalist has been tailed, beaten up, drugged and illegally detained by police over the past few months.

The organisation wrote to Turkmen President Saparmurat Nyazov, urging him to do everything possible to ensure that Ovezberdiev is allowed to work freely as a journalist, without fear of physical or bureaucratic reprisals.

"As a member of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Turkmenistan has made a commitment to respect press freedom, but it continues to be the European country in which journalists have the most intolerable work conditions," RSF said.

On 14 November 2003, two men believed to be secret service agents forcibly took Ovezberdiev to an Ashgabat cemetery, where he was brutally beaten, threatened and dumped on the side of a road. "We've had enough of you. We're going to get rid of you," the men told him. Ovezberdiev sustained head injuries in the incident.

On 11 September, Ovezberdiev was arrested by National Security Ministry officers and detained for three days. He was drugged, manhandled and threatened with a 20-year prison sentence for being a "traitor to the homeland."

Ovezberdiev produces two radio programmes, "Vox Pop" and "Open Microphone". In the second programme, listeners are given an opportunity to speak out when their rights are violated and to get in touch with legal experts and human rights organisations abroad. National Security Ministry officials have called for the cancellation of the programmes on several occasions.


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