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Journalists under surveillance

Journalists continue to be persecuted in Turkmenistan. As has become known, the Ministry of National Security is currently compiling the data base of the journalists who are not employed by the state mass media and even those who left the country.

About 20 years ago all local papers were liquidated in the country on the grounds of economic difficulties and afterwards, in 1998, all velayat and municipal newspapers, published in the languages of the ethnic minorities, were also shut down. Most staff members of the print media as well as the journalists were forced to leave Turkmenistan. However, a few stayed.

For some reason the former journalists who stayed in Turkmenistan and their colleagues who left the country are still arousing enormous interest among the Turkmen special services. In June the special service officers made a raid of all editorial offices in an attempt to get access to the archives, which file the data on the former employees.

Apart from the personal files, the special service officers tried to solicit information from the print media managers or - if the latter have been recently appointed and have not been kept informed- from the long-serving staff members about the former journalists. The officers from the National Security departments asked not only to provide the first names and surnames of the former journalists and correspondents, but also their current place of residence (the country and city they departed to), their current occupation and the names of those who they stay in contact with in Turkmenistan.

As has been disclosed by one of the officers, the Turkmen president is outraged by the negative coverage of the situation in Turkmenistan, which is posted on the Internet. He ordered to find the journalists working for foreign Internet editions at all costs and apply retaliatory measures towards them.

Apparently, the personal files on journalists are being collected as the previously filed archives have been lost because of the high staff turnover in the Ministry of National Security. Since the Soviet times all journalists have been under surveillance of the special services. They have kept personal date files on each of them. Probably, the recently appointed Minister wants to update the records in order to identify the persons who continue to contribute articles to the foreign media.

Source: TIHR