One of the few Turkmen journalists to work openly for independent media outlet, Achilova was about to take a flight to Tbilisi, the capital of nearby Georgia, to attend an international seminar when officials stopped her at Ashgabat airport and told her she was forbidden to leave the country. Travel bans are often imposed on dissidents in Turkmenistan, one of the worlds most closed countries.
“A ban on leaving the country is the start of severe repressive measures against a journalist in Turkmenistan,”RSF said. “This persecution of Soltan Achilova is intolerable. We call on the international community to respond and to challenge the Turkmen authorities about the systematic human rights abuses.”
The Turkmen authorities cannot stand dissident journalists and clearly have Achilova in their sights. She has been the victim of a dozen physical attacks in the past two years and was assaulted three times in the space of a just few days in November 2016.
Ranked 178th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index , Turkmenistan is black hole from which little news and information emerge and where the few independent journalists risk severe persecution. Prague-based Radio Azatlyk is one of the few sources of independent news in the Turkmen language.
Access to the Internet in Turkmenistan is managed by a single provider and most of the population has almost no access outside of Internet cafés, where users must first present identification. Most websites offering independently reported information are blocked.