Umida Akhmedova convicted and amnestied


A court in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) has found the well-known photographer Umida Akhmedova guilty, but immediately applied an amnesty. According to the official wording, she was found guilty of having defamed the image of Uzbekistan by creating portraits of only the poor and dispossessed.
Umida Akhmedova was convicted under the articles on “Defamation for gain or other low motives” and “Insult in printed or other duplicated texts or in the media”. The maximum sentences were corrective labour from two to three years or imprisonment for the same period.
Umida told a correspondent from Radio Svoboda by phone that she had fallen under the amnesty declared to mark 18 years of independence on 28 August 2009, but that she had still been convicted.
Among the many calls for these outrageous charges to be revoked and for the photographer to be released, was one from the Committee to Protect Journalists. In its call from 22 January, it states:
According to the independent regional news Web site Ferghana, the charges stem from a 2007 album of photographs depicting life in Uzbek villages and a 2008 documentary on the traditional ban on premarital sex. Both were produced with support by the Swiss Embassy in Tashkent, Akhmedova told CPJ. In the album, titled “Women and Men: From Dawn to Dusk,” Akhmedova showed men, women, and children in their daily routine and during traditional rituals. Her documentary—The Burden of Virginity—criticizes the pressure on young women in Uzbekistan to practice abstinence until marriage.
“We call on the authorities in Tashkent to drop the absurd charges against Umida Akhmedova at once,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “It is unthinkable that a documentarian should go to prison because the state interprets her work as insulting.”
The indictment, obtained by CPJ, and signed by Tashkent police investigator K. Kh. Akbarov, said that results of a “complex expert review” of Akhmedova’s work revealed that “with her unscientific, unsound, and inappropriate comments, which contain hidden implications, are directed at discrediting values and traditions of our people, and hold negative information that can affect moral and psychological conditions of the youth”—she insulted “traditions of the Uzbek people, which is viewed as defamation, scornful, and disrespectful attitude towards national traditions.”
According to Ferghana, in mid-November, Akhmedova learned that a criminal case concerning her work was filed by Uzbekistan’s State Agency for Press and Information, a government media regulator. Investigator Nodir Akhmadzhanov with the Mirabad District Police Department in Tashkent called and asked her to come and testify as a witness in the case. After the visit, Akhmedova told Ferghana she was perplexed at the authorities’ claims. She said Akhmadzhanov was unable to answer her question how the visual depiction of traditions could defame an entire nation. A month later, the same investigator told Akhmedova that, as an author of the documentary and album, she was no longer a witness in the criminal case but has been upgraded to a suspect; he suggested that she seek a lawyer, Ferghana reported.
In their conclusion, the state-sponsored panel of experts who reviewed Akhmedova’s work said it left a negative impression on viewers unfamiliar with Uzbek traditions, Ferghana reported: “Looking at the pictures, a foreigner who had not seen Uzbekistan comes to the conclusion that this is a country where people live in the Middle Ages. The author intentionally focuses on life’s hardships.”
Akhmedova deems the charges against her unsubstantiated but told CPJ she feared for her subjects. “I am not scared of being prosecuted but hope they will spare the people I have documented and worked with,” Akhmedova told CPJ.
Akhmedova is the author of several documentaries on Uzbekistan; her photos have been shown in exhibitions at home and abroad. She is the first female documentary filmmaker in Uzbekistan, the regional press reported. See a slide show of her work on the CPJ Blog.
From information at

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