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Free Turkmen Reporters

Turkmenistan continues to be a dangerous place for journalists to work. The government of President Saparmurat Niyazov routinely silences those who speak out about the widespread human rights violations in Turkmenistan. It does so through beatings, arbitrary detention and arrest, incarceration in psychiatric facilities without medical justification, house arrest, and torture.

Currently, several journalists in Turkmenistan remain in prison, including Ogulsapar Muradova, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, or R-F-E/R-L. She was arrested on June 18th without explanation. Ms. Muradova's three adult children were also arrested but later released.

The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees R-F-E/R-L, has demanded that Turkmenistan release Ms. Muradova and "cease all interference with the right of journalists in Turkmenistan to gather and report information freely." Two other Turkmen employees of R-F-E/R-L were arrested in March but were released after promising to stop their reporting.

Another victim of the repressive Turkmen government is Annakurban Amanklychev. He has been falsely accused by authorities of spying for a foreign power after reporting from Turkmenistan for the France2 news program "Foreign Correspondent." The documentary featured such issues as the cult of personality surrounding President Niyazov and human rights-related topics. According to Reporters Without Borders, since his arrest in June, Mr. Amanklychev has been tortured. Some members of his family have been dismissed from their jobs, their children expelled from schools, and his associates put under surveillance.

Sapardurdy Khajiev was arrested the same day as Ms. Muradova. He works with the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

Annakurban Amanklychev, Ogulsapar Muradova, and Sapardurdy Khajiev have been unjustly imprisoned by the government of Turkmenistan and should be released unconditionally.

The U.S., said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “must call countries to account when they retreat from their human rights commitments." That is especially true in the case of these outrageous assaults on journalists in Turkmenistan.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.