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Danish cartoonist arrested, his hotel room searched, over poster suggesting Russian president's complicity in journalists' deaths

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an IPI press release:

IPI Says Cartoonist Arrested in Vienna over Poster Carrying Image of President Putin

Vienna, 22 May 2007 - According to information provided to the International Press Institute (IPI), a Danish cartoonist was arrested in Vienna, Austria, today over a poster portraying the image of Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

The Danish cartoonist, Jan Egesborg, who works for the independent art group Surrend.org, was arrested at the Vienna underground station Karlsplatz while putting up posters of President Putin.

He was apparently charged with possible incitement or encouragement of a crime and taken to the Schottenring police station in Vienna's First District.

The poster of President Putin is normal A2 sized (60 cm by 40 cm) and carries a sentence that asks whether President Putin is involved in the shooting of journalists. The text is followed by a picture of President Putin within a target. At the bottom of the poster there is a Web site link to http://www.surrend.org

Police authorities in Vienna have said the use of the target may incite or encourage others to commit a crime. However, Egesborg contends that the poster falls within European standards of freedom of expression and, as such, merely questions President Putin's commitment to press freedom in Russia.

While in detention, authorities searched Egesborg's hotel room at the Holiday Inn, but only discovered additional copies of the poster.

At present, prosecutors are reviewing the case against Egesborg, but he is expected to be released later today pending a final decision on whether to prosecute.

Security in Austria's capital is extremely high because President Putin is visiting Vienna tomorrow for a series of meetings. He is due to leave on 24 May.

In recent months, there has been mounting concern over Russian press freedom. Based on IPI's statistics, two journalists were killed in Russia in 2006, and most recently, the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) was evicted from its Moscow offices raising fears that this is an attempt at disrupting a forthcoming conference to be held by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

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