Russian journalist detained upon arrival; held incommunicado

New York, August 12, 2005—Uzbek authorities at the airport in the capital, Tashkent, detained Russian journalist Igor Rotar on Thursday and were holding him today, according to his news organization and international press reports.

Rotar, a Central Asia correspondent for several Russian newspapers and Western Web sites, was detained by border guards after arriving at 10:25 a.m. on a flight from neighboring Kyrgyzstan, according to Forum 18, a human rights news Web site based in Oslo, Norway. Rotar was on a routine assignment for Forum 18 when he was detained, Assistant Editor John Kinahan told the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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

“Uzbekistan is the region’s leading jailer of journalists, and we are very concerned for Igor Rotar’s safety,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on President Islam Karimov to ensure that authorities release our colleague immediately and end their campaign of harassment and intimidation of independent journalists.”

The Russian Embassy in Tashkent and the local office of the Vienna-based Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been informed of the detention and are following the case, according to Forum 18.

“We are demanding that the Uzbek authorities release him immediately and allow him to continue with his lawful activities,” Kinahan told CPJ in a telephone interview today. Rotar, a Russian citizen, is traveling on a Russian passport.

Uzbek authorities in Tashkent have not commented on the detention. Furkat Sidikov, a press officer at the Uzbekistan Embassy in Washington, D.C., told CPJ in a telephone interview today that he was not aware of the detention.

Rotar’s detention comes amid an intense government crackdown on the independent media following the May 13 massacre of anti-government protests in the northeastern city of Andijon.