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Ahmad Zeidabadi
An imprisoned Iranian journalist has been awarded the prestigious Golden Pen of Freedom award for 2010 by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Ahmad Zeidabadi was tried in August on charges of plotting to overthrow the regime with a "soft revolution" and sentenced to six years in prison and given a lifetime ban on practicing his profession. He was one of scores of journalists and activisits rounded up and tried by the authorities in Iran following the disputed presidential vote in June.

Zeidabadi first came to prominence in 2000 for an open letter he wrote from prison that protested the judiciary's treatment of imprisoned journalists. Despite efforts to suppress it, the letter was widely circulated.

"All journalists are aware of the dangers of challenging the autocratic regime of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and the actions of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei," the board of WAN-IFRA said in announcing the award. "Mr. Zeid-Abadi has chosen to repeatedly brave them and publicly support reform and the rule of law in Iran.

"Mr. Zeidabadi has refused to give in, despite the horrific conditions in which he is being held, and his courage makes us feel very humble. We hope Mr. Zeidabadi's sentence will be overturned."

The Golden Pen of Freedom recognizes the outstanding action, in writing and deed, of an individual, a group or an institution in the cause of press freedom.

WAN-IFRA is based in Paris and Darmstadt, Germany, and is a global organization of the world's newspapers and news publishers.
Uzbek photographer Umida Ahmedova
A prominent Uzbek photographer/videographer has been charged with defamation and damaging the country's image because of the content of her photos and videos, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Umida Ahmedova, 54, 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.

Ahmedova told RFE/RL that Uzbek officials disapprove of her photos used in the documentaries "The Burden Of Virginity" and "Customs Of Men And Women," which focus on poverty and gender inequality in Uzbekistan.

Ahmedova, who has contributed photographs to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, said the charges against her were "groundless" and "absurd."

Tashkent police investigator Nodir Ahmadjonov told RFE/RL that experts in the Prosecutor-General's Office found her photos and videos to be defamatory and insulting.

The Uzbek Communication and Information Agency initiated the case against Ahmedova, who has been ordered not to leave Uzbekistan while an investigation is carried out.

If found guilty, Ahmedova could face a fine and be sentenced to up to two years in a labor camp or up to six months in prison.

Ahmadjonov added that Ahmedova could be released under an amnesty without being acquitted.

Ahmedova's films were shown at the One World film festival in Prague in 2006, where they were popular with audiences.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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