Ashyrkuli Bayriev, 2010 winner
Ashyrkuli Bayriev is the Turkmen Service’s correspondent in the capital of Ashgabat. In Turkmenistan, any association with RFE/RL can bring harassment or worse, as Bayriev’s case illustrates. In March 2004, Bayriev was detained for 12 days in the National Security office in Ashgabat, and today he remains under constant surveillance. In addition, his land phone line has been cut since November 2008; he has limited internet access; and he frequently has to change his mobile phone account in order to keep in contact with RFE/RL. The local authorities frequently summon him in order to intimidate him into silence.
But Bayriev does not remain silent. In spite of these obstacles, he manages not only to report the news but to do so with utmost professionalism. He particularly enjoys to report about ordinary people’s daily lives, so that the voices of the Turkmen people are heard. He recently reported from a region near Ashgabat where ordinary people gathered to commemorate the victims of the historical Geokdepe battle with Russian troops in 1881. Bayriev managed to report live from the gathering, and for his crime of accurately reporting the mood of the people there he was punished: the authorities cut off his mobile phone. However, this has not stopped him from continuing to do his job in exemplary fashion.