Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns Serbian travel journalist Viktor Lazic’s detention
since 10 September in the self-proclaimed independent republic of South Ossetia and calls for his
immediate release. Arrested by border guards after entering the territory from Georgia, Lazic is
being held in its capital, Tskhinvali, on a charge of crossing the border illegally.
A polyglot law graduate and PhD student who has written two best-sellers about his travels, Lazic
is currently on his second world tour for the Serbian publication Press, to which he is supposed to
be sending weekly reports. A visit to South Ossetia, which is recognized by few countries aside
from Russia, was part of his itinerary.
After leaving Gori, a Georgian town near the South Ossetian border, on 9 September, Lazic
passed three Georgian and Russian control points. The next day, after seeing no sign or flag
indicating he was in South Ossetia, he approached another checkpoint and asked the guards
what papers he should present. They immediately accused him of crossing the border illegally.
Lazic spent the first two days in solitary confinement after being transferred to Tskhinvali. He was
deprived of food, light and medical care and was unable to move freely. He was given no official
document with the reason for his arrest and was not allowed to contact a lawyer. After an attempt
to take his laptop, phone and passport, he was interrogated and threatened.
It was only two days after his arrest that Press was able to contact Lazic. After being told of the
situation, South Ossetian foreign minister Murat Dzhioyev said he could do nothing until the
Serbian embassy in Moscow contacted him. But the Serbian ambassador to Moscow, Jelica
Kurjak, said she could not contact her South Ossetian counterpart because Serbia has not
recognized South Ossetia.
Lazic’s arbitrary detention and the physical and psychological mistreatment to which he had been
subjected constitute serious violations of his rights.