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Renewed Isolation for RFE/RL Correspondents in Turkmenistan

(Prague, Czech Republic — March 28, 2006) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Turkmen Service has again lost contact with two journalists working in Turkmenistan who were recently released after 10 days in prison. The current status of the two journalists, one of whom is suffering from a kidney-related illness, is unknown.

Jumadurdy Ovezov and Meret Khommadov, from the Mary region in southeastern Turkmenistan, were released from prison on March 16 (see chronology). Telephone contact with Khommadov was restored on March 23, at which point he made a public statement about his detention that received wide publicity (Khommadov’s description of their ordeal can be read on RFE/RL’s website). The telephone link with Khommadov was interrupted again this past weekend.

RFE/RL’s last contact with Khommadov was on March 24. At that time, Khommadov said that Ovezov, who has remained gravely ill at home since being released from prison, was still ill with a serious kidney disorder and badly in need of medical attention. Ovezov has no phone line at home and RFE/RL relied on Khommadov for updates about his condition.

RFE/RL Acting President Jeff Trimble in Washington called the Turkmen authorities’ on-again, off-again interruption of telephone communications “a cynical cat and mouse game of intimidation that blatantly disregards basic human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.” Trimble noted that all media are censored and strictly controlled by the state in Turkmenistan. “RFE/RL is the only alternative source of information for Turkmens in their own language. We applaud the courage and commitment of the correspondents who continue to cooperate with RFE/RL,” Trimble said.

RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service broadcasts six hours of programming a day to Turkmenistan, produced in Prague and transmitted to listeners via shortwave, medium wave and satellite broadcasts. Turkmen Service programming is also available via the Internet, at; English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can also be found on the RFE/RL website.