Journalist arrested in southern Uzbekistan

New York, June 7, 2005—Authorities in the southern Uzbek city of Karshi have detained, arrested, and sentenced Tulkin Karayev, a correspondent for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), on charges of hooliganism.

On Saturday, June 4, an unknown woman attacked Karayev and human rights activist Gaybulla Djalilov, who was accompanying him, on the street in downtown Karshi, according to local press reports. When Karayev went to the local police station in Karshi to report the incident, he discovered that his female attacker had already declared herself the victim of the attack.

Without due process, police detained Karayev and arrested him on charges of hooliganism. A local court then sentenced the journalist to 10 days in prison, IWPR reported. He is currently in a Karshi prison, according to IWPR, which produces a news Web site and trains journalists in conflict zones around the world.

Before the incident, Karayev had complained of an increased surveillance of his apartment by security services. He also said that security service agents had approached his family and friends, IWPR reported.

On June 2, Karayev informed the IWPR London office that a car without license plates had been surveying his house for several days, IWPR Central Asia Editor Filip Noubel told CPJ in a telephone interview today.

Karayev is one of the few independent journalists who covered the May 13 unrest in the northeast city of Andigian, during which security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters, killing 500 civilians, according to international press and human rights reports. Uzbek authorities claim that less than 200 people were killed.

Since the unrest, the Uzbek state media has severely criticized independent journalists such as Karayev. A May 25 article in the Uzbek-state newspaper Pravda Vostoka, titled “In defense of the national sovereignty of the Uzbek people,” called Uzbekistan IWPR correspondents “enemies of the state” and called for the dissemination of their names and photos on national television.

“We are very concerned for the safety of our correspondents in Uzbekistan,” Noubel said. “The Uzbek security services know their names and locations, and we are afraid they will be targeted one by one.”

“CPJ is dismayed by the detention of our colleague Tulkin Karayev ,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Uzbek authorities to release him immediately and stop harassing IWPR correspondents.”

In mid-May, IWPR local staff closed their central office in the capital of Tashkent, because authorities had made it virtually impossible for them to work, Noubel told CPJ, citing frequent tax and fire inspections.

Read CPJ’s May 13 and May 16 alerts on Uzbekistan.