Outcry over arrest of young reporter Rovshen Yazmuhamedov in Turkmenistan


#177 — Turkmenistan
Police officers patrol a street in Turkmenistan's capital, Ashgabad, on Nov. 17, 2010.



Young Turkmen reporter Rovshen Yazmuhamedov was arrested Monday in the northeastern city of Turkmenabat, according to his employer Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Relatives told RFE/RL, a US-funded news organization serving countries that lack freedom of information, that the 30-year-old journalist had been questioned by authorities in the tightly-controlled Central Asian nation several times in the past. 

Press freedom, and indeed most freedoms, are scarce in authoritarian Turkmenistan. 

Yazmuhamedov reportedly focused on social issues in his work, said RFE/RL. But Johann Bihr of Reporters Without Borders Europe told the International Business Time they were "sensitive social issues," saying Yazmuhamedov had been covering a government crackdown on female students wearing the Islamic headscarf, or hijab. 

"No charges have been presented against him, and we don't know if or when a trial is expected," Bihr told IBT. "We will listen carefully what the authorities have to say, but Turkmenistan's appalling press freedom record makes us suspect that Yazmuhamedov's arrest may be linked to his reporting," he added. 

Relatives told RFE/RL Yazmuhamedov was being held at a detention center known for terror-related cases.

Another RFE/RL reporter in Turkmenistan, Ogulsapar Muradova, was arrested in 2006 and died during custody. 

Reporters Without Borders lists Turkmenistan as the world's third-worst country when it comes to press freedom.