Contact: Ruslan Myatiev
ATN’s Response to Vepa Hajiyev’s Statements Regarding Saparmamed Nepeskuliev
September 28, Amsterdam – At the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw on September 22, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Vepa Hajiyev questioned the fact that civic activist Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, who has been imprisoned since July on false charges of drug possession, was in fact a journalist.
«Yesterday, we heard a call for release of the so-called person, who assists freelancers working for Radio Liberty in obtaining information — Mr. Nepeskuliev», Mr. Hajiyev said. «Claims that he is someone who helps in obtaining information are untrue.»
Of course, it is hard to admit that anything is true, when your counterparts from the neighboring agency – the National Security Ministry – have thrown this person in jail for his activism. But since the arrest of the journalist became public and a number of international organizations, including the OSCE itself, spoke out in his defense, it is better to reject the very idea that Nepeskuliev is a journalist. Mr. Hajiyev even decided to avoid the «bad» term «journalist», calling the contributor to ATN and RFE/RL «a person who assists in obtaining information».
But Mr. Hajiyev, you are lying! And you are trying to convince the international community that independent journalists in Turkmenistan are not persecuted. And that the three-year sentence given to Nepeskuliev related to «such [journalism] activities logically contradicts reality» and is nothing but «conjecture».
Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) published numerous reports by Nepeskuliev from his hometown Balkanabad and Turkmenbashi about the poor state of the local roads, shortages of drinking water, abandoned cemeteries and the problems the locals face after the main building of the healthcare center was closed. Nepeskuliev was not reporting from someone else’s words, but did so after visiting the places personally, talking to the locals. Nepeskuliev always supported his facts with quality photographs.
After his arrest, ATN posted an example of his work under his real name: a video from the city park, where young trees were withering, and the park was turning into a waste dump. ATN also published his photo report about the state of boiler houses in Balkanabad.
Today, Mr. Hajiyev, ATN is publishing Nepeskuliev’s other audio and video report, where he gives a detailed account of the situation in secondary education: unhygienic conditions in schools of Balkanabad, endless exaction of money for renovation from parents, while no renovation ever follows. In addition, Nepeskuliev talks of safety violations in schools, insufficient number of Russian language lessons, of where the parents’ money goes, the chain of corruption in the education system, and the quality of education in general.
This, Mr. Hajiyev, is the work of a correspondent! And in Turkmenistan, where any form of criticism is suppressed, it is the work of any civic activist who is not willing to stand idly by, but not «a person who assists in obtaining information», as you put it at the OSCE meeting.
Mr. Deputy Minister, please listen to the speech of this «drug addict», as your colleagues from the Security Ministry called him, and tell us: could a drug user speak so coherently, build sentences, take photos and send those photo, audio and video files from a country where Facebook and YouTube are permanently blocked?
By the way, some websites controlled by the Turkmen security services had a field day with a couple of video statements Saparmamed had made with his mobile phone and posted on YouTube. Deputy Minister Hajiyev said that these videos contain «no mention of Turkmenistan». Mr. Hajiyev, you lied again! All these videos are directly related to Turkmenistan, in particular, to violation of human rights Russian citizens that live in Turkmenistan are facing in this country. In fact, in one of the videos Nepeskuliev criticizes the OSCE for inaction, for covering up the lawless treatment of Russian citizens by the Turkmen authorities.
ATN once again expresses deep regret that the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Ms. Dunja Mijatović did not explicitly mention the case of Nepeskuliev in her speech, the way she spoke of the Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova and other reporters in OSCE countries who suffered persecution. According to ATN’s information, Ms. Mijatović met with the Turkmenistan Ambassador to the OSCE before the human dimension meeting last week. The subject of their discussion is unknown, but most likely the Turkmen diplomat managed to convince Ms. Mijatović not to mention Nepeskuliev’s case.
Ms. Mijatović! It is wrong to defend the rights of journalists selectively while holding such a responsible position in the largest international organization of Eurasia! Being a half-way advocate for the rights of journalists and freedom of the media is, in Hajiyev’s words, «absurd, foolish and unprofessional.» One can’t be a little bit pregnant.
ATN insists that the criminal case against the journalist and civic activist Saparmamed Nepeskuliev was fabricated from start to finish. He is not a drug addict! ATN is convinced that he was imprisoned because of his journalism work. ATN urges the authorities of Turkmenistan to release the innocent man, and international human rights organizations and governments of democratic states to continue putting pressure on the Turkmenistan government!
Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN)
P.S. On September 21, 17 international organizations – members of the «Cotton Campaign», including ATN, sent a joint letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan Mr. Allan Mustard with a request to the U.S. government to urge the Turkmen authorities to release Saparmamed Nepeskuliev.
«We ask you to promptly urge the Turkmen government to release Saparmamed Nepeskuliev immediately and unconditionally, and to permit journalists and activists to report without fear of reprisals,» the letter says.
To read the letter in English, click here.