Turkmen Journalist Achilova Among Top Rights Prize Finalists

A 71-year-old Turkmen journalist has been nominated among three finalists for a prestigious human rights award for her reports from Turkmenistan, one of the most repressive countries in the world.

The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in Geneva said on January 18 that Soltan Achilova “documents the human rights abuses and social issues affecting the Turkmen people in their daily lives.”

The jury composed of 10 activist groups, including Amnesty International, recognized Achilova’s work in a country where “freedom of speech is inexistent and independent journalists work at their own peril.”

“Despite the repressive environment and personal hardships, she is one of the very few reporters in the country daring to sign independent articles,” the statement said.

Based in Ashgabat, Achilova is a contributor to the Vienna-based independent news website Khronika Turkmenistana (Chronicles of Turkmenistan), which focuses on news and developments in Turkmenistan.

She has in the past worked as a reporter for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service.

Turkmen authorities, who don’t tolerate an independent press, have targeted the journalist for her work.

Achilova has been detained by police and physically assaulted by officers, thugs, and other unidentified assailants, while her relatives had also come under pressure by the authorities.

The two other nominees for the Martin Ennals Award are leading Saudi advocate for women’s rights Loujain Al-Hathloul and Chinese lawyer and human rights activist Yu Wensheng. Both of them are currently in jail.

The statement said that the award ceremony “will celebrate their courage” during an online event co-hosted by the city of Geneva on February 11.

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