Azathabar.com is the website of Radio Azatlyk, the Turkmen-language service of Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). In a country ranked 178th out 180 in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Radio Azatlyk is one of the very rare sources of independent news. The editorial staff is based abroad but uses journalists inside Turkmenistan, who risk their lives to provide it with news reporting. The journalist Ogulsapar Muradova died in 2006 in the Ovodan Depe high security prison, which is notorious for its appalling conditions.
Because of Radio Azatlyk’s growing popularity, its journalists are being harassed with increasing frequency. Sentenced to three years in prison on a trumped-up drug possession charge, Saparmamed Nepeskuliev has been detained since July 2015. His colleague, Khudayberdy Allashov, spent two months in prison, from December 2016 to February 2017, along with his mother. He was beaten at the time of arrest and was tortured while in police custody. Soltan Achilova, a journalist aged 67, was attacked several times in the space of two months in 2016. Many of their colleagues have been forced to stop working altogether because of the mounting harassment.