By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan – In one of the world’s most repressive nations, two female journalists were verbally and physically attacked on the 14th and 15th of November 2017. These were not isolated attacks but rather just one attempt in a long string of attacks to silence these two journalists, among others.
Soltan Achilova is an independent journalist who works for Radio ‘Azatlyk’, a service of Radio Free Europe|Radio Liberty. On 14 of November two men followed her in a car as she made her way to the US Embassy Information Center. On the same day, while photographing people in line at a grocery store, a man came up to her and grabbed her, yelling, “I will take a rock and hit you on the head. If you ever use a camera again, I will smash it together with you! Go home and never go out again. Otherwise you will die.” She was also followed back to her house by men in a car.
Earlier in the year, men also broke into Achilova’s son’s car in an attempt to get to her. This is the fourth attack against her this year.
Galina Kucherenko is a human rights activist. On 15 November police called her demanding that she sign a police summons and report to the police station. The reasoning was that another activist had filed a complaint against her. After the phone call, men knocked on her door, demanding that she sign the police summons. She did not let them in. However, they hung around her building for another 25 minutes before leaving. Kucherenko is continuously watched by surveillance agents, and has had her internet and phone services cut off.
Men have been stationed outside these activists’ homes in plain clothes. They follow them in broad daylight whenever the activists leave. The surveillance men try to avoid having their imaged captured, though, turning their backs to cameras or stepping back.
Human Rights activists are concerned that the back-to-back attacks indicate an increase of journalist repression. International Partnership for Human Rights director says that these attacks underline the extreme extent that the government goes to create an atmosphere of nonexistent free speech.
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Author: Katherine Hewitt
Katherine Hewitt is a first year Masters of Arts in International Affairs candidate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She is pursuing a concentration in Peace, Security, and Conflict. Her interests lie in ethnic conflicts, particularly in the Post-Soviet Sphere. She expects to graduate in December 2018.