Uzbekistan: Artist should have 'slander and insult' conviction quashed

Amnesty International has called on the Uzbekistani authorities to quash the conviction for "slander and insult" of a prominent photographer and documentary filmmaker who has been recording people's lives in Uzbekistan.

Umida Ahmedova was found guilty by the Mirabad district court in Tashkent city yesterday, though also pardoned by the presiding judge. The charges were based on the content of some of Ms Ahmedova’s photographs and film projects which were interpreted by the Uzbekistani authorities as slandering and insulting the country’s people and traditions.

Amnesty International Uzbekistan Researcher Maisy Weicherding said:

"While Umida Akhmedova was not jailed yesterday she was nevertheless convicted simply for exercising her right to freedom of expression.

"This conviction remains even if she has been pardoned and is at liberty. She now has a criminal record."

In 2007 Ms Ahmedova published a photo album under the title Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Men - from Dawn to Dusk, which focused on gender inequalities in Uzbekistan. The album was sponsored by the Swiss embassy in the capital Tashkent. In 2008 she produced a film, The Burden of Virginity, which explored the traditional obligations on Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights to prove their virginity on their wedding night.

As a result, Ahmedova was officially charged with the offences of slander and insult on 23 January 2010, based on the analysis of the State Press and Information Agency and the conclusions of an "expert group", assigned by the office of the Prosecutor General to evaluate her work. The group was said to be composed of psychologists, experts on religious matters, propaganda and spirituality. It did not include any experts on human rights or gender despite the obvious link to gender issues in her work.

The group found that the documentary was damaging to the country's image, denigrating its national traditions and undermining spiritual and moral values. It also concluded that in the photo album Ahmedova aimed to show only the "dark side of life in Uzbekistan", and recommended that her work be banned from public distribution.

Amnesty considers that the charges against Ahmedova constituted a violation of her right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Uzbekistan is a state party. The organisation has also expressed its concern that the criminal proceedings against Ahmedova may have been brought to intimidate other artists who are documenting traditional practices that discriminate against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls.

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