CPJ condemns attack on independent journalist

New York, November 10, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the assault of journalist Aleksei Volosevich, one of the few independent reporters still working in Uzbekistan who witnessed the Andijan massacre.

Volosevich, correspondent for the Moscow-based Central Asia news Web site Ferghana.ru, was attacked by five unidentified men near his apartment in the capital Tashkent on Wednesday. He told CPJ the men knocked him to the ground, kicked him, and then doused him with paint which temporarily blinded him. Volosevich, 38, was not hospitalized.

The assault comes amid a campaign, documented by CPJ, of intimidation and repression against the independent media by President Islam Karimov’s government. It is part of a broad effort to obscure the full extent of the May 13 massacre in the eastern city of Andijan.

“We are outraged by this brutal attack which is the latest in a series of assaults, threats and intimidations, many of which have been linked to the government,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We demand that President Karimov stop the intimidation and repression of journalists who have reported on the horrific events in Andijan that his government has attempted to hide.”

Volosevich said he left his apartment to meet an unknown man who had telephoned him claiming to have information related to Andijan. “The next thing I knew, I was on the ground and drenched with paint. The whole thing happened in a matter of 10 seconds. One of the attackers told me that from now on I would not sell my country,” Volosevich said.

When he staggered back home, Volosevich saw several teenagers run out of his building. They had covered the walls around his apartment with anti-Semitic slogans such as “Here is the home of a corrupt journalist, a Jew, who has no idea what true Islam is,” Volosevich said. Volosevich, who is not Jewish, said, “I think authorities just told those teenagers to scribble something on my walls…but I was attacked because of my journalism.” He accused the Uzbek security services of being behind the assault.

A security services spokesman rejected the claim Thursday and termed it a provocation, the Interfax news agency reported. Officials at the Uzbek embassy in Washington D.C. could not be reached for comment. Authorities have yet to open a criminal case into the attack, Volosevich said.

Volosevich was one of the few independent journalists who covered Andijan, where security forces fired indiscriminately at anti-government protesters, killing between 500 and 1,000 civilians, according to local and international human rights organizations and eyewitnesses. The government puts the death toll at 187 and claims those killed were mostly “foreign-financed terrorists.” At least seven reporters who covered Andijan have been forced into exile by threats and intimidation, according to CPJ research.

Two weeks ago Volosevich published a critical article on the politicized trial of 15 Uzbek men charged with terrorism, attempting to overthrow the state by organizing the Andijan “uprising”, hostage-taking, and murder. Some of the charges carry the death penalty. All men pleaded guilty at the opening of the trial on September 20. Human rights advocates said the accused had confessed under duress.