Turkmenistan stops broadcasting Euronews channel after TV footage about Turkmen journalist

ASHGABAT (TCA) — Turkmenistan on March 8 stopped broadcasting the news TV channel Euronews, which showed the footage about the 2021 Martin Ennals Award Ceremony for Human Rights Defenders and one of its finalist, the Turkmen journalist Soltan Achilova, independent foreign-based news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan reported.

The 2021 Award Ceremony of the most prestigious award for human rights defenders was held in an online format on 11 February.

Together with Soltan Achilova, the co-finalists of the award were Loujain AlHathloul, a leading women’s rights defender from Saudi Arabia and a renowned Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng, who was named the Laureate.

In January 2020 Turkmenistan’s officials and representatives of Euronews channel discussed collaboration in creating the information materials devoted to celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Turkmenistan’s neutrality, sports events as well as culture and history.

Euronews previously cooperated with Turkmenistan in promoting the V Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in 2017. The TV channel also advertised the recreational resort Avaza and other tourist attractions of Turkmenistan.

The 71-year-old Achilova recently issued a rare rebuke of Turkmenistan’s authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, criticizing him and his government in a video posted on YouTube for failing to provide proper heating and water supply to Ashgabat residents during winter, RFE/RL reported.

In the video statement that appeared on YouTube on February 18, Achilova, who has previously worked as a reporter for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, said she will no longer call Berdymukhammedov “respected” because “millions of Turkmen had stopped respecting you long ago.”

Such an act of public dissent is a rare occurrence in Turkmenistan, where Berdymukhammedov has run the former Soviet republic with an iron fist since 2006, becoming the center of an elaborate personality cult.

“You have always said that your main goal is to take care of your people. But in fact, you are taking care of such things as to listen to how others praise you, to ride a horse, to drive a race car, to swim in a lake, to fish, and to sing songs,” Achilova said, pointing to numerous television programs showing Berdymukhammedov’s hobbies and his leisure activities.

Achilova added that the heating system in her apartment had been switched off several times in recent days, which she called an intentional warning over her journalistic activities.

Achilova also criticized Berdymukhammedov and his government for what she called a “failure to provide” ordinary people with decent food at acceptable prices, adding that “miserable pensions and salaries in the country” do not provide people with the means to shop for regular items at local markets.