Mr Vice president,
Representatives of AmfAR at the 2010 Cannes Festival,
Presidents and co-presidents of the Cinema against AIDS event,
The annual “Cinema against AIDS” evening will be held tomorrow at Cap-Eden Roc hotel at Cap d’Antibes, within the Cannes Film Festival.
Reporters Without Borders, an international organisation for the defence of journalists, is astonished to note the presence among you at this 7th annual event of Gulnara Karimova. The organisation recognises the evening’s valid and admirable character, but questions the appropriateness of the participation of the daughter of the Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, central Asia’s “outstanding” dictator.
While Reporters Without Borders accepts the importance of AIDS prevention and the value of such events, it would however like to jog your memory about some disturbing and significant facts. The prevention of AIDS is vital but should not be at the expense of fundamental values.
Some months ago, a young activist, Maksim Popov, aged 27, was sentenced to seven years in prison for distributing information about the fight against AIDS, a virus that is wreaking havoc Uzbekistan as it is elsewhere. The brochures he was distributing were about how to stem the spread of HIV. These publications were deemed by the court to be “contrary to the mentality and moral basis of the Uzbek people’s society, religion, culture and traditions”. It should not be forgotten either that homosexuality is a crime punishable by three years imprisonment in this country; and it is a criminal offence to discuss condoms with anyone under-age.
While AmfAR on 10 May signed a petition calling for the release of Maksim Popov, you currently have among your donors, Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the president, whose courts are responsible for the conviction of Maksim Popov. Could it be that you have a selective memory when you are offered major funding. Does it alter your objectives?
Surely this is an attitude that is not only counter-productive but also absurd?
Reporters Without Borders reminds you that President Islam Karimov figures on its list of the “predators of press freedom” released annually on 3 May. The situation of the country’s journalists and human rights defenders is extremely precarious. Uzbekistan is ranked 160th out of 175 countries on the organisation’s press freedom index. Eleven journalists are currently in jail, where they are often maltreated.
As Uzbekistan’s ambassador to Spain and Switzerland, Gulnara Karimova, is therefore her country’s official representative, spokesperson for the harsh policies carried out by her father for several years.
By accepting her presence at the forthcoming 7th annual event, Reporters Without Borders fears that you will give this country a profile that it in no way deserves. You will thus be colluding with repressive policies affecting not only those fighting against AIDS, but also all those, who in the worst of dictatorships, suffer arbitrary imprisonment and torture.
Reporters Without Borders calls on you to adopt a firm position in relation to Gulnara Karimova by demanding that she publicly supports the release of Maksim Popov and of all human rights defenders, including journalists, who are in detention. This gesture would be completely in keeping with the objectives of your campaign and would certainly be more useful to AIDS prevention in Uzbekistan that the detention of an activist.
While Reporters Without Borders does not wish to engage in further polemic about the current correlation between financial contributions and blindness to the real situation in Uzbekistan, the organisation nevertheless wishes to stress the discredit that this case could reflect on the event and the work of AmfAR, and thus to its members, however prominent they may be. Are Sharon Stone, Giorgio Armani and Elizabeth Taylor, to name just a few, aware of the Uzbek political context? Do they approve of the policy towards human rights defenders and the repression of AIDS prevention?
Reporters Without Borders therefore calls on everyone taking part in the event to demand that Gulnara Karimova either takes a significant step in support of the Uzbek detainees or withdraws. The Cannes Film Festival and AmfAR would thus be real vehicles of the fight for freedom and the prevention of AIDS, and would no longer give an international platform to President Karimov and his dictatorship through the presence of his daughter.
I trust your will give this letter your careful attention.
List of journalists imprisoned in Uzbekistan:
- Khayrullo Khamidov (Nawruz - radio), since 21 January 2010
- Dilmurod Sayid (Ezgulik) since 22 February 2009
- Bakhrom Ibragimov (Irmok) since 16 February 2009
- Davron Kabilov (Irmok) since 16 February 2009
- Ravshanbek Vafoev (Irmok) since 16 February 2009
- Abdulaziz Dadakhonov (Irmok) since 16 February 2009
- Botyrbek Eshkuziev (Irmok) since 16 February 2009
- Solidjon Abdurakhmanov (freelance journalist) since 7 June 2008
- Djamchid Karimov (freelance journalist, working for websites fergana.ru and centrasia.ru) since 12 September 2006
- Jusuf Ruzimuradov (Erk) since 15 March 1999
- Mohammed Bekjanov (Erk) since 15 March 1999