Rovshen Yazmuhamedov
Rovshen Yazmuhamedov (Twitter)

Turkmenistan authorities have arrested a local journalist operating in the northeastern city of Turkmenabat, according to media reports.

Earlier this week, RFE/RL reporter Rovshen Yazmuhamedov, 30, was arrested by Turkmen police, members of his family told the US-founded media outlet.

Press freedom is almost non-existent in Turkmenistan as the government led by former dentist-turned dictator Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov controls all broadcast and print media.

RFE/RL said Yazmuhamedov reported mainly on social issues and authorities haven't given any explanation for his detention.

"No charges have been presented against him, and we don't know if or when a trial is expected," Johann Bihr, head of Reporters Without Borders Europe desk, told IBTimes UK.

Bihr said Yazmuhamedov had recently been reporting on "sensitive social issues" including the official ban of hijab from schools.

"We will listen carefully what the authorities have to say, but Turkmenistan's appalling press freedom record makes us suspect that Yazmuhamedov's arrest may be linked to his reporting," Bihr said.

Yazmuhamedov's relatives told RFE/RL the reporter was interrogated by security services several times in the past, and is being held at a detention centre run by a directorate of the Interior Ministry mainly dedicated to organised crime and terrorism-related cases.

"Of course journalists are not above the law, but one should remember that justice is absolutely not independent in Turkmenistan and that independent journalism is not tolerated there," Bihr said. "In the past few years, many journalists have been jailed under ridiculous pretexts."

In 2011 another RFE/RL reporter, Dovletmyrat Yazkuliyev, was sentenced to five years in jail for encouraging a relative to commit suicide. He was later released under presidential amnesty.

Before the arrest Yazkuliyev had been reporting on deadly explosions at a weapons depot near the capital Ashgabat.

Annakurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Khadjiyev, both journalists and human rights activist, were reportedly released in February upon completing a seven-year jail sentence on illegal possession of weapons charges.

RFE/RL journalist Ogulsapar Muradova, who was arrested with them in 2006, died in custody.

"Given the terrible detention conditions in Turkmenistan, we are very worried for Rovshen Yazmuhamedov," Bihr said.

Turkmenistan was ranked alongside North Korea as the worst country in the world for press freedom in democracy watchdog Freedom House's 2013 rundown of repressive regimes last week.

Reporters Without Borders ranks the country third-last in its world press freedom index.