Tulkin Karaev was detained June 4 in his home town of Karshi, and immediately imprisoned for 10 days at a judicial hearing without counsel.
Karaev has written extensively about social and political issues in Uzbekistan for the London-based Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), an international media-development group that provides training and other support for local journalists. (www.iwpr.net)
IWPR contributors have come under severe attack recently in the Uzbek and Russian press for its leading role in frontline reporting from Andijan. IWPR and human rights organizations have reported that more than 500 people were killed by Uzbek security forces without warning, and western governments have called for an international enquiry.
The Uzbek government claims less than 200 people it says were armed militants were killed, and has refused to allow any independent reporters or forensic experts into the region.
Karaev was given an immediate 10-day prison sentence following an incident in downtown Karshi, in which he was attacked by an unknown woman and then subsequently arrested for hooliganism.
At the time, he was accompanied by Gaybulla Djalilov, an Uzbek human rights activists, who says that such provocations are a common tactic of the government for arresting dissidents. Karaev had noted increased surveillance by the authorities of his apartment following the May 13 events in Andijan, and recently reported that family friends have been approached by the security services to provide information on him.
Karaev, who is married with two sons, is one of the only independent journalists in Karshi, and most of the media in Uzbekistan is under strict state control.
On May 25, the Uzbek state newspaper Pravda Vostoka called for the names and photographs of all IWPR contributors to be shown on state television. 'Evidently, it is time to close down this office, and send this friendly bunch of journalists to another country so that they can look for "war and peace" there,' the newspaper wrote, in an article titled, 'In defence of national sovereignty of the Uzbek people'
An article in the Russian Moscow News on May 23, asked 'Is pro-American IWPR involved in the disturbances in Uzbekistan' and implied that reporters associated with the IWPR assist in organizing 'disturbances'.
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting strengthens local journalism in areas of conflict and crisis through training, reporting and other capacity building programmes. IWPR is supported by a wide range of western aid agencies and foundations, and has been working in Central Asia since 2000.
For further information, please contact Central Asia Editor Filip Noubel or Operations Director Tim Williams for queries or call +44 207 713 7130 in London.