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Two RFE/RL Azeri Reporters Win Major Awards

Azerbaijan – RFE/RL correspondents Sevda Ismayilli and Babek Bekir - Gold Key Award winners, Baku, 21Jul2009
(BAKU, Azerbaijan) A report exposing corruption in government agencies and a blog post on modern women’s issues earned top awards for RFE/RL Azeri-language reporters on July 21 at a ceremony marking Azerbaijan’s National Media Day.

Babek Bakir and Sevda Ismayil of RFE/RL’s Radio Azadliq placed first in their respective categories at the Media Key awards, which are sponsored annually by the Azerbaijan Journalists Union, the Yeni Nesil Journalists Union and the Democratic Journalists League.

Bakir’s investigative report “Gone with Tenders” beat out 26 other stories for the award. It detailed corruption and misuse of oil revenues by government agencies to finance construction projects.

“I am not watching other people’s pockets. All I am doing is watching how the oil money is spent in this country, because this money belongs to all Azerbaijanis,” Bakir said at the award ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of people, including foreign diplomats and members of the Azerbaijani parliament.

The top award in the Publicist category went to Ismayil’s International Women’s Day blog post, “What Do You Want, Azerbaijani Woman?” The post highlighted the tensions women in Azerbaijan face between moral values, material goods and their desire for freedom.

The former anchor of Radio Azadliq’s “Can Baki” (Dear Baku) program, Ismayil launched her daily blog in March 2009, three months after Azerbaijan’s government banned all foreign-based FM radio broadcasts. It is now one of the most popular and commented sections on Radio Azadliq’s Web site,