Posts Tagged ‘Turkmenistan’

Euronews on Achilova and the MEA was banned by Turkmenistan

March 10, 2021

It now transpired that Turkmenistan on March 8 stopped broadcasting the news TV channel Euronews, which showed the footage about the 2021 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony for Human Rights Defenders and one of its finalist, the Turkmen journalist Soltan Achilova, independent foreign-based news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reported.

The 2021 Award Ceremony of the most prestigious award for human rights defenders was held in an online format on 11 February.

As Vienna-based Chronicles of Turkmenistan has reported, l This year’s finalists included Soltan Achilova, a 72-year-old journalist and activist who has reported on state repression in Turkmenistan in the face of relentless intimidation. Her story was well told in a recent profile by AFP news agency. [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/23/soltan-achilova-has-issued-a-rare-rebuke-of-the-turkmen-president-on-youtube/]

Akhal-Teke is a weekly Eurasianet column compiling news and analysis from Turkmenistan. It added on 9 March: Euronews is about as anodyne a news channel as one could hope to find. So much so that the Turkmen Foreign Ministry in January 2020 hosted the channel’s chief business development officer, Roland Nikolaou, for talks on future cooperation. That makes the inclusion of Euronews among the ranks of undesirables all the more remarkable. 

Turkmenistan has the backup option of Mir 24, a Euronews clone based out of Moscow and focused on news from Commonwealth of Independent States members. Turkmenistan is an associate member of the post-Soviet bloc. The station began broadcasting inside the country in December 2020, following a cooperation deal signed with the Turkmen state broadcaster a month earlier. 

Mir 24 also produces content, of the most unimaginably inoffensive kind, from inside the country. Recent reports have included one on a highly chaste beauty contest for female students, several touching upon celebrations for International Women’s Day and a piece about the creation of a national annual holiday devoted to the Alabai dog breed

Blocking Euronews is of little import in the larger scheme of things. As RFE/RL wrote on March 7, police are adopting invigorated measures to make sure that smartphone owners are not using VPN services to circumvent censorship. The broadcaster said that authorities in the city of Mary are stopping people in the street for spot inspections of their phones.  

The cause of this alarm is the continued seepage of news belying the absurd government insistence that the country has experienced no cases of COVID-19.

https://www.timesca.com/index.php/news/23543-turkmenistan-stops-broadcasting-euronews-channel-after-tv-footage-about-turkmen-journalist

https://eurasianet.org/turkmenistan-a-ban-on-all-news-ye-who-enter-here

Soltan Achilova has issued a rare rebuke of the Turkmen President – On YouTube

February 23, 2021


Turkmen journalist Soltan Achilova (file photo)
Turkmen journalist Soltan Achilova (file photo)

On 19 February 2021 RFE/RL reported that 71-year-old Turkmen journalist Soltan Achilova has issued a rare rebuke of the Central Asian nation’s authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, criticizing him and his government in a video posted on YouTube for failing to provide proper heating and water supply to Ashgabat residents during winter.

In the video statement that appeared on YouTube late on February 18, Achilova, who has previously worked as a reporter for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, said she will no longer call Berdymukhammedov “respected” because “millions of Turkmen had stopped respecting you long ago.”

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (file photo)
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (file photo)

Such an act of public dissent is a rare occurrence in Turkmenistan, where Berdymukhammedov has run the former Soviet republic with an iron fist since 2006, becoming the center of an elaborate personality cult

Last month, Achilova was named as one of three finalists for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for her reports from Turkmenistan, one of the most repressive countries in the world. SEE ALSO: Turkmen Journalist Achilova Among Finalists For Top Human Rights Prize [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/%e2%80%8b%e2%80%8bmartin-ennals-award-finalists-2021-announced/]. See also: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/hrd/soltan-achilova/#film

Achilova also criticized Berdymukhammedov and his government for what she called a “failure to provide” ordinary people with decent food at acceptable prices, adding that “miserable pensions and salaries in the country” do not provide people with the means to shop for regular items at local markets. Achilova added that the heating system in her apartment had been switched off several times in recent days, which she called an intentional warning over her journalistic activities.

Our fellow Turkmen citizens working in foreign countries have staged several protests recently demanding your resignation. We join those protests and demand your resignation as well because you are incapable of carrying out your duties. We are suffering and you do not even care about it. All you are capable of is ruining our homes and causing our people to suffer,” Achilova said.

Based in Ashgabat, Achilova is currently a contributor to the Vienna-based independent news website Khronika Turkmenistana (Chronicles of Turkmenistan), which focuses on news and developments in Turkmenistan.
Turkmen authorities, who don’t tolerate an independent press, have targeted Achilova in the past for her work as a journalist. SEE ALSO: RFE/RL Correspondent Roughed Up — Again — In Turkmenistan

https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-journalist-achilova-rare-public-rebuke-president-berdymukhammedov/31111278.html

https://www.timesca.com/index.php/news/23482-turkmenistan-journalist-posts-rare-public-rebuke-of-president-on-youtube

​​Martin Ennals Award Finalists 2021 announced

January 18, 2021

Today 18 January 2021, the Martin Ennals Foundation announced that three outstanding human rights defenders based in authoritarian states are nominated for the 2021 Martin Ennals Award.

In isolated Turkmenistan, Soltan Achilova documents human rights violations and abuses through photojournalism.

Imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, Loujain AlHathloul is a leading advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.

A lawyer, Yu Wensheng defended human rights cases and activists before his conviction and imprisonment in China.

The Finalists distinguish themselves by their bravery and deep commitment to the issues they defend, despite the many attempts to silence them by respective governmental authorities. The 2021 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony will celebrate their courage on 11 February during an online ceremony hosted jointly with the City of Geneva which, as part of its commitment to human rights, has for many years supported the AwardEvery year thousands of human rights defenders are persecuted, harassed, imprisoned, even killed. The Martin Ennals Foundation is honored to celebrate the 2021 Finalists, who have done so much for others and whose stories of adversity are emblematic of the precarity faced by the human rights movement today”, says Isabel de Sola, Director of the Martin Ennals Foundation.

For more on this and similar awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/award/043F9D13-640A-412C-90E8-99952CA56DCE

Authoritarian states tend to believe that by jailing or censoring human rights defenders, the world will forget about them. During the COVID-pandemic, it seemed like lockdowns would successfully keep people from speaking out. This year’s Finalists are a testament to the fact that nothing could be further from the truth, says Hans Thoolen, Chair of the Jury.

  • In Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most isolated countries, freedom of speech is inexistent and independent journalists work at their own peril. Soltan Achilova (71), a photojournalist, documents the human rights abuses and social issues affecting Turkmen people in their daily lives. Despite the repressive environment and personal hardships, she is one of the very few reporters in the country daring to sign independent articles.
  • In Saudi Arabia, women still face several forms of gender discrimination, so much so, that the Kingdom ranks in the bottom 10 places according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020. Loujain AlHathloul (31) was one of the leading figures of the Women to drive movement and advocated for the end of the male guardianship system. She was imprisoned in 2018 on charges related to national security together with several other women activists. Tortured, denied medical care, and subjected to solitary confinement, Loujain was sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in prison on 28 December 2020. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/loujain-al-hathloul/]
  • In China, more than 300 human rights activists and lawyers disappeared or were arrested in 2015 during the so called 709 Crackdown. A successful business lawyer, Yu Wensheng (54) gave up his career to defend one of these detained lawyers, before being arrested himself. Detained for almost three years now, Yu Wensheng’s right hand was crushed in jail and his health is failing. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/26/lawyers-key-to-the-rule-of-law-even-china-agrees-but-only-lip-service/]

Online Award Ceremony on 11 February 2021

The 2021 Martin Ennals Award will be given to the three Finalists on 11 February 2021 at an online ceremony co-hosted by the City of Geneva (Switzerland), a long-standing supporter of the Award. “The City of Genevareaffirmsits support to human rights, especially during these times of crisis and upheaval. Human rights are the foundation of our society, not even the pandemic will stop us from celebrating brave persons who have sacrificed so much”, says Member of the executive Alfonso Gomez.

For more information:

Chloé Bitton
Communications Manager
Martin Ennals Foundation
cbitton@martinennalsaward.org
media@martinennalsaward.org
Office: +41.22.809.49.25
Mobile: +41.78.734.68.79

Media focal point for Loujain AlHathloul
Uma Mishra-Newberry
FreeLoujain@gmail.com  
https://www.loujainalhathloul.org
+41.78.335.25.40 (on signal)

Press release

Press release (English)

Press release (French)

Press release (Chinese)

Press release (Russian)

Press release (Arabic)

Turkmenistan’s cotton activist Matalaev free after 3 years

September 11, 2019

Gaspar Matalaev

valdosta / Pixabay

blogged in Value Walk of 9 September 2019 about “Gaspar Matalaev Free After Three Years Of Unjust Imprisonment”.  Gaspar Matalaev, a labor rights monitor from Turkmenistan, was released from prison on 6 September after three years’ imprisonment in retaliation for his reporting on forced labor. A court in Turkmenabat sentenced Matalaev on spurious charges of fraud in 2016 and Matalaev served the entire three-year sentence. “We are relieved that Gaspar is out of prison and home with his family where he belongs,” said Ruslan Myatiev, director of turkmen.news, a member of the Cotton Campaign. “But make no mistake, every day that Gaspar spent in prison was a travesty of justice to punish him for his human rights work and intimidate others from speaking out about abuses.”

Gaspar Matalaev, a reporter with turkmen.news who had monitored and reported on the systematic use of forced adult and child labor in Turkmenistan during cotton harvesting, was arrested in October 2016, just two days after turkmen.news published his extensive report on Turkmenistan’s labor practices. While in detention, Matalaev was tortured by electric shock and held incommunicado. Throughout the investigation and trial, he did not have access to effective legal representation or to key files, information, and documents. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions determined that Matalaev’s arrest and imprisonment was arbitrary.

“Matalaev and others take great personal risks when they document these abuses,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director at the International Labor Rights Forum, which hosts the Cotton Campaign. “Turkmenistan’s international partners, including in the U.S., EU, and the international development banks, should use their influence with the government of Turkmenistan to press for greater protections for human rights monitors and journalists.” International Labor Rights Forum honored Matalaev with its annual Labor Rights Defender award in 2019.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition calling on the government of Turkmenistan to release Matalaev. …….

The Cotton Campaign and investors called on companies to sign the Turkmen Cotton Pledge, and work to ensure that cotton from Turkmenistan produced with forced labor does not enter their supply chains. Thus far 70 major apparel and home goods brands and industry associations have signed the pledge.

Thanks to the work of reporters and human rights defenders like Gaspar Matalaev, companies and consumers can make informed sourcing and purchasing decisions,” said Patricia Jurewicz, vice president of the Responsible Sourcing Network, Cotton Campaign co-founder, and host of the Turkmen Cotton Pledge. “Companies can take a stand to end the human rights abuses in Turkmenistan, and ensure that materials produced with forced labor do not enter their supply chains.”

Cotton Campaign is a global coalition of human rights, labor, responsible investor, and business organizations dedicated to eradicating child and forced labor in cotton production.

 

Gaspar Matalaev Free After Three Years Of Unjust Imprisonment

Human Rights Council: Reprisals instead of responses is the answer by many States

March 21, 2019

Room XX of the Human Rights Council

In two statements delivered to the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council, ISHR and Amnesty International reacted to the latest Joint Communications Report of the UN Special Procedures – independent human rights experts, appointed to monitor and report on human rights violations and to advise and assist in promoting and protecting rights. The report cites nine cases of reprisals against human rights defenders cooperating with the UN, and reveals that 95 states have not responded to letters from the UN experts concerning human rights violations.

There are two, related issues at stake here: (1) non-response to letters from the UN, and even worse (2) reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN.

When I started my blog in 2010 (and one of the motivations) a main concern was the lack of response and enforcement [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/03/20/taking-on-non-response-this-bloggers-lone-response/ and : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140603192912-22083774–crime-should-not-pay-in-the-area-of-international-human-rights ].

As Helen Nolan of ISHR explains, 35 States have recently failed to respond to two or more of these letters. 13 of these nations are members of the Council. ‘Repeat offenders are a particular concern,’ says Nolan. India has failed to reply to a staggering 8 communications, Mexico 6, Italy 5, and Bangladesh and Nepal 4 each.’ Nolan emphasises that a failure to reply is a failure to cooperate, and welcomes the fact that the recently published report of the Annual Meeting of Special Procedures focuses on non-cooperation, including ‘more subtle forms’, such as selective cooperation with particular mandates. ‘To encourage cooperation, the Council must make non-cooperation more costly,’ says Nolan. ‘We urge the President of the Council to work closely with the Coordinating Committee of the Special Procedures to find ways to do this,‘ adds Nolan.

ISHR and Amnesty International’s second statement noted that under GA Resolution 60/251, Council members must ‘fully cooperate with the Council.’ Yet, the report cites nine cases of reprisals involving these members:

  • China sought to revoke the Society for Threatened Peoples’ ECOSOC status after vexatiously alleging that a person accredited by them, Dolkun Isa, participated in incitement and funding of separatism and terrorism, in retaliation for cooperation with the UN;
  • Egypt carried out forced evictions, and violations of the rights to physical integrity, liberty and security against individuals who cooperated with the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing during her recent visit;
  • Iraq carried out unlawful arrest, enforced disappearance and torture against Imad Al Tamimi and intimidated and threatened Israa Al Dujaili for cooperating with the UN;
  • Libya arrested an individual in retaliation for taking steps to clarify the fate and whereabouts of his father, including with UN mechanisms;
  • The Philippines labeled defenders “terrorists” in reprisal for their engagement with the UN;
  • Russia surveilled, intimidated and harassed Yana Tannagasheva and her husband, for speaking out about impacts of coal mining on indigenous people in Siberia and in possible reprisal for their communication with UN mechanisms;
  • Turkmenistan carried out reprisals against a defender and her husband for her cooperation with the UN; and
  • In Yemen, forces loyal to President Hadi and the Saudi-led coalition detained human rights defenders Radhya Al-Mutawakel and Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih for cooperating with the UN.

‘We call on the President of the Council to request updates on the cases from Iraq, Libya, Russia, Turkmenistan and Yemen, as there has been no response from the States concerned,’ said Nolan. For an older post on reprisals, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/03/13/zero-tolerance-for-states-that-take-reprisals-against-hrds-lets-up-the-ante/

Full text of the first statement (on failure to reply) available here.

Full text of the second statement (on cases of reprisals) available here.

You can also watch the videos of the statements via the link below:

Reporters Without Borders published its 2014 World Press Freedom Index

February 14, 2015

couverture classement 2014

Reporters Without Borders recently published its 2014 World Press Freedom Index. It has a nice easy-to-use and colorful map. The accompanying text spotlights the negative correlation between freedom of information and conflicts, both open conflicts and undeclared ones. In an unstable environment, the media become strategic goals and targets for groups or individuals whose attempts to control news and information.

The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. Despite occasional turbulence in the past year, these countries continue to be news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them. This year’s index covers 180 countries.

Reporters Without Borders.

JOINT NGO RECOMMENDATIONS ON ENSURING PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN CENTRAL ASIA

May 21, 2014


9

From 20-21 May 2014 there was in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a Regional Workshop on Implementing the Human Dimension Commitments and Enhancing the role of Civil Society. An important contribution was the joint statement by six NGOs containing recommendations to protect human rights defenders in Central Asia.  The text in its totality follows below:  Read the rest of this entry »

And the Nominees Are……Oscars for Human-Rights !!

February 28, 2014

Regular readers of this blog know that I like the idea of holding  celebrities accountable (most recently: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/star-power-and-human-rights-a-difficult-but-doable-mix/).   The reason is that there is a mutually reinforcing (and for many profitable) interaction between the stars and the media (which in turn feed on the interest of the public). Celebrities’ views on all kind of issues – including human rights –  can hardly be called private. Their social media are virtual industries and influence millions globally. So it seems a good idea to have an annual look at which celebrities have advanced and which have harmed the cause of human rights around the world. Halvorssen and Leigh Hancock ( of the Human Rights Foundation) have done exactly that in the Atlantic on 27 February 2004 and linked it to the upcoming Oscars night on Sunday. 

(Gary Hershorn/Reuters)

The list of celebrities deserving recognition for their accomplishments in the field of human rights or those who should be ashamed for supporting human-rights violators, is long and contains many video links. Like the real Oscars, the list is slanted in terms of geopolitical interest and I think that if all major international human rights organisations would get together to agree on a list if would be more balanced, but that is probably wishful thinking. Still, the Human Rights Foundation deserves credit for this creative initiative. and here is the summary:

The Nominees for Outstanding Work in the Field of Human Rights Read the rest of this entry »

Star power and human rights: a difficult but doable mix

February 10, 2014

RED-FACED. Jennifer Lopez performing for the leader of 'one of the world's most repressive regimes,' according to Human Rights Watch. Photo by Agence France-Presse/Igor Sasin

 (Jennifer Lopez performing for the leader Turkmenistan. (c) Agence France-Presse/Igor Sasin)

In quite a few earlier posts in this blog I have drawn attention to stars and celebrities who either support dictators or simply do not care that their actions do. So, I was quite happy to see a thoughtful piece by Jo Biddle of Agence France-Presse on 9 February 2014 analyzing this issue a bit more in-depth, with actress Scarlett Johansson as the “poster girl of Israeli apartheid”, Dennis Rodman in North Korea, and Kim Kardashian expressing her love of Bahrain. I would add, Mariah Carey who thinks nothing of singing for Gaddafi or the Angolan President, while Jennifer Lopez (picture above) did the same in Turkmenistan.

The author rightly states that when celebrities wander into complex foreign policy issues, it can be a minefield, leaving diplomats and human rights campaigners scrambling for damage control. The article mentions exceptions such as Bob Geldof, Bono, George Clooney or Angelina Jolie Read the rest of this entry »

Mariah Carey needs better-informed staff and donate her 1 million fee to Human Rights Defenders in Angola

December 19, 2013

Mariah Carey Celebrates Angola’s Dictator, his Family, and Their Ill-Gotten Wealth

Mariah Carey poses with José Eduardo dos Santos, the 34-year dictator of Angola, his wife, and his daughter Isabel—Angola’s only billionaire

 

 

 

The Human Rights Foundation has lately been targeting celebrities who give their voice and reputation to bad causes and I think it is an excellent idea. Some celebrities do good work (think of Barbara Hendricks or Angelina Jolie), most are not interested but there is no reason why some should go out of their way to give support to dictators. There is no financial or diplomatic necessity. So, it is good to highlight Mariah Carey‘s concert on 15 December during a gala for the Angolan Red Cross, which was sponsored by Unitel (President José Eduardo dos Santos billionaire daughter Isabel owns Unitel and is also president of the Angolan Red Cross). “Mariah Carey can’t seem to get enough dictator cash, reportedly more than $1 million dollars this time. Read the rest of this entry »