The Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR) believes that, in connection with the international sports contest the 2017 Asian Games, the Turkmen authorities have tightened their campaign to prevent the external dissemination of independent information pertaining to the human rights situation in Turkmenistan.
On 14 October 2016, addressing a meeting devoted to the preparation of the Asian Games, President G. Berdymukhammedov charged a group of specially trained experts to start working with Internet technologies with the task of preventing the dissemination of untrustworthy information about the Games on the Internet . This instruction gave an impetus to a pro-active and large-scale campaign by the law-enforcement authorities to resist dissemination of information on the Internet.
On 3 December 2016 a Radio Azatlyk correspondent, Hudaiberdi Allashov was detained in Dashoguz. According to Radio Azatlyk , the journalist was beaten by police officers and tortured with electric shocks.
Another Radio Azatlyk correspondent, Soltan Achilova, has been assaulted three times in the past two months . Achilova's Internet access and telephone have been disconnected.
Since October the renowned civil rights activist, Natalya Shabunts, has had her Internet connection cut off. Despite the fact that Shabunts pays for the services of Turkmentelecom on a regular basis, she is unable to connect to the Internet.
Law-enforcement agencies are also persecuting citizens who are active in social networks. It became known to the TIHR that the special services summon very active users to regional offices of the National Security Ministry and demand that they refrain from visiting certain websites and social network pages. These demands are accompanied by threats of arrest, inclusion in the refusenik lists of those who are barred from exiting the country, terminations from work and expulsion from educational establishments etc.
The TIHR expresses concern over the increasing number of instances of persecution against independent journalists and civil activists, as well as the pressure exerted on users of social networks. TIHR would like to repeat that the government of Turkmenistan and President Berdymukhammedov are obliged to comply with the clauses of the Turkmenistan Constitution, article 42 of which says that No one shall have the right to prohibit an individual to freely express his/her opinion as well as prevent its dissemination in accordance with the law. Everyone shall have the right to free search of information and to receive information, if it is not a state or other secret protected by law.
The TIHR calls for the immediate release of journalists S. Nepeskuliev and H. Allashov who are being held in custody, and for an independent investigation of the attacks on S. Achilova to be carried out.
The Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights also calls for an end to blocking the means of communication of journalists and civil activists, and to carry out an investigation of incidents when pressure has been exercised on active users of social networks.
Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan