Authorities deport Russian journalist

New York, August 15, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the deportation of Russian journalist Igor Rotar, who was detained by Uzbek authorities in Tashkent on Thursday and put on a plane bound for Almaty, Kazakhstan, late the next day, according to local and international press reports.

Uzbek security and immigration officials detained Rotar when he arrived at the Tashkent airport, holding him incommunicado for most of two days. In an interview today with the Moscow-based news Web site, Rotar said that he received no explanation for his detention and that he refused to leave the country voluntarily. Rotar had traveled to Uzbekistan on assignment for Forum 18, a human rights news Web site based in Oslo, Norway.

“We deplore this arbitrary deportation of our colleague, Igor Rotar, and we call on President Islam Karimov to end his government’s crackdown on the independent media,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “In taking an actions such as this, President Karimov’s government draws the curtain of secrecy ever tighter and reaffirms its disturbing move toward international isolation.”

Uzbek authorities did not publicly comment on the deportation, but the Foreign Ministry in Tashkent issued a statement today outlining accreditation procedures for foreign correspondents. It stated that journalists may apply for temporary accreditation upon arrival, but they could be denied if they had violated Uzbek laws. The statement did not refer to Rotar specifically, nor did it state that he had violated any laws.

Furkat Sidikov, a press officer at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington, D.C., told CPJ in a telephone interview today that Rotar was held for “technical reasons” because he did not have accreditation from the Foreign Ministry.

Rotar told that he was traveling to Uzbekistan to report on the harassment of Protestants in the Western Uzbek region of Karakalpakistan for Forum 18. He said he believes his detention was part of a broader government crackdown on the media following the May 13 massacre of anti-government protesters in the northeastern city of Andijon.

Rotar, a Central Asia correspondent for several Russian newspapers and Western Web sites, was detained by border guards after arriving Thursday at 10:25 a.m. on a flight from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, according to Forum 18.

Forum 18, citing unnamed sources in Uzbekistan, reported that border guards detained the journalist on orders from the National Security Service.