Independent Journalists Under Pressure in Turkmenistan

Soltan Achilova taken off Istanbul flight, Saparmamed Nepeskuliev under surveillance

The few independent journalists living in Turkmenistan are coming under continuing pressure from the country’s special services. On March 11 Soltan Achilova was detained at passport control at Ashgabat airport and told she does not have the right to leave the country, Chronicles of Turkmenistan reported. The journalist was flying via Istanbul to Tbilisi to take part in a seminar.

Meanwhile, the special services are openly following Saparmamed Nepeskuliev. He wrote about it on his Facebook page and uploaded photographs of young men in civilian clothes, who keep watch on his house in Balkanabat and follow him wherever he goes. 

In May 2018 the journalist was released from prison after serving three years for alleged possession of Tramadol, a banned medicine in Turkmenistan. In fact Nepeskuliev contributed to our website and to Radio Azatlyk (Radio Liberty), which was the real reason for his sentence. As well as moral pressure, the two journalists have both suffered physical intimidation on several occasions too, and received threats from unidentified individuals.

Saparmamed Nespeskuliev has a ticket for Turkish Airlines Flight TK 323 to Istanbul on March 23. He has Russian, not Turkmenistan, citizenship and holds a Russian Federation passport. 

Although the migration service has no legal basis to hold him in the country, has informed the Russian consul in Ashgabat about the freelance journalist’s plans to leave the country and asked the diplomat to monitor the situation. 

Image on front page: Saparmamed Nepeskuliev’s profile on Facebook