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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

NOVEMBER 14, 2003

Saparmurat Ovezberdiev, RFE/RL


Ovezberdiev, an Ashgabat-based correspondent for the Turkmen service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was taken from his home in Ashgabat by two MNB agents, who took the journalist to a local cemetery, brutally beat him, threatened him with death if he continued to work for RFE/RL, and then left him by the side of a road, according to international press reports.

Ovezberdiev produced the radio programs "Vox Pop" and "Open Microphone" for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service. During "Open Microphone," listeners can air their concerns about human rights abuses and get the perspective of legal experts and international human rights organizations.

Since the attack, Ovezberdiev has been under virtual house arrest, with MNB agents stationed outside his home to prevent him from leaving to conduct interviews on the streets of Ashgabat for "Vox Pop," a senior RFE/RL official told CPJ.

The government's persecution of independent journalists and opposition activists has intensified following an alleged assassination attempt against President Saparmurat Niyazov on November 25, 2002.

On September 11, 2003, MNB agents detained Ovezberdiev for three days in an MNB prison in Ashgabat. While there, the journalist was severely beaten, drugged, and threatened with 20 years of prison for betraying his country because of his work for RFE/RL.