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Ismayilova Featured in Columbia Journalism Review

Khadija Ismayilova in the studio for her RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service program "After Work," 16 Mar 2012
Khadija Ismayilova in the studio for her RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service program "After Work," 16 Mar 2012
RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova and her fight for a free press and transparent government in Azerbaijan are the subject of a Columbia Journalism Review article highlighting the dangerous plight of Azerbaijani journalists. The article, published in CJR's July/August 2012 print edition, also calls on readers to sign a petition to end the smear campaign against Ismayilova.

Known as a dedicated whistleblower and investigative journalist, Ismayilova has been interviewed recently by both Al Jazeera and the BBC.

Read the article below. Or find the original from the Columbia Journalism Review.


Sending Out An SOS:
A New Low In Azerbaijan

Amanda Erickson | Columbia Journalism Review

July 9, 2012

Radio Liberty’s Khadija Ismayilova has built her career on exposing corruption in oil-rich Azerbaijan. She did it largely without repercussion in a country where journalists are routinely harassed, beaten, and even murdered for their efforts.

Until now. On March 7, Ismayilova became the victim of an ongoing smear campaign. She received stills from a video of her having sex, along with a letter warning that she would be “shamed” if she did not abandon her investigation of links between President Ilham Aliyev’s family and lucrative building projects in Baku, the capital.

The video was posted online, and soon after the state-owned paper Yeni Azerbaijan published an article attacking Ismayilova’s character. It is not clear who is behind the campaign, though Aliyev’s critics blame his government.

It’s not exactly a stretch. Azerbaijan ranks in the bottom quarter of Reporters Without Borders 2011 Press Freedom Index. Eight journalists are currently in Azerbaijan’s prisons. Women journalists, though, have largely been spared, according to Emin Huseynov, head of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety. Ismayilova’s case would seem to represent an end to that relative immunity—and it may have been simply a matter of time, anyway. According to a Wikileaks cable, Aliyev called her an “enemy of the state,” and asked American diplomats to get her fired.

If you want to remind President Aliyev that the world is watching, sign the petition sponsored by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project calling for the government of Azerbaijan to aggressively investigate the harassment of Ismayilova: