On December 5, prominent journalist and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova will mark her first year in prison on charges that are widely regarded as retribution by Azeri authorities for her reporting exposing corruption among the country's leadership. RFE/RL has announced that it will launch a fellowship to continue highlighting her case and ensure that her investigative work continues.
Said Editor in Chief Nenad Pejic, "We want to ensure that her important voice is not silenced, and that, to the contrary, her arrest encourages independent journalists and does not discourage, intimidate, or deter them."
The Khadija Ismayilova Investigative Journalism Fellowship is formed in partnership with the Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and will support reporting projects within RFE/RL’s broadcast region that investigate corruption and persons in power.
Ismayilova was arrested on December 5, 2014 on charges that were ultimately dismissed, but to which accusations of financial wrong-doing were added later, resulting in a 7.5 year prison term in September. The charges were never substantiated nor supported by a single witness in court, and were repudiated by foreign governments, members of the U.S. House and Senate, and numerous human rights and media monitoring groups.
Ismayilova has called her case a "poor quality scam." RFE/RL has condemned it as politically motivated and "baseless," and continues to demand her immediate and unconditional release.
Ismayilova's arrest was followed on December 26, 2014 by a raid on RFE/RL's Baku bureau as part of a larger campaign by the Azeri government against organizations receiving foreign funding.