Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN) reporter Gaspar Matalaev remains imprisoned on false charges of fraud, despite multiple promises to his family that he would be released. Matalaev was arrested the night of October 4, 2016, two days after his report on state-orchestrated forced labor of children and adults in Turkmenistan’s cotton harvest was posted on ATN’s website. He reportedly confessed to fraud charges while being tortured with electroshocks, though when he was arrested police told him it was related to photographs he posted on the internet.
Matalaev is one of the few independent monitors working undercover to reveal the state-run nature of forced and child labor during cotton harvests in one of the world’s most authoritarian countries. The Government treats refusal to contribute to the cotton harvest as insubordination, incitement to sabotage, and even ‘contempt of the homeland.'