The International Federation of Journalists has condemned charges brought against a photojournalist in Uzbekistan who faces jail for her revealing documentaries about Uzbek society.
Umida Ahmedova, a prominent Uzbek photographer/videographer, was charged on December 16 with defamation and damaging the country's image because of the content of her photos and videos. If convicted she could be fined and or jailed in a work camp for up to two years.
Her portrait of Uzbek society, which has offended officials in the state prosecutor’s office, is laced with pictures of children and people of all ages in a country where gender inequalities and the hardship caused by poverty are much in evidence.
“None of her pictures could be regarded as offensive except by only hard-nosed bureaucrats who have no respect for the harsh realities of life,” said Aidan White IFJ General Secretary. “The charges are absurd and should be dropped immediately.”
Ahmedova took a series of photos and video at obscure Uzbek villages that she used for two documentaries in a project sponsored by the Swiss Embassy in Tashkent. The films, "The Burden of Virginity" and "Customs of Men and Women," focus on poverty and gender inequality in Uzbekistan.
Ahmedova says the charges against her are "groundless" and she is supported by colleagues in the region, including the Russian Union of Journalists.
The case against Ahmedova was launched by The Uzbek Communication and Information Agency and she has been ordered not to leave Uzbekistan while an investigation is carried out.
“It is tragic that good, honest and visually challenging journalism comes up against obstruction like this,” said White. “Uzbekistan needs to restore some dignity to its standing by ensuring that journalists are encouraged to tell the truth with style and professionalism, and cases like this should stay where they belong, as part of a distant and unsavoury past.”
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