WASHINGTON -- An August 7 ruling by the Azerbaijani Supreme Court upholds baseless charges of tax evasion against journalist Khadija Ismayilova, blatantly ignoring Azerbaijani law and the government’s international treaty obligations, including to the United States, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) President Jamie Fly has said.
“We will continue to do everything within our power and authority to stand up for Khadija, whose courageous reporting is the reason for the bogus charges against her,” Fly said. He continued, “We urge Azerbaijani authorities to remove the ban on her travel, drop the groundless tax penalties she faces, unfreeze her bank accounts, and allow her to resume a normal life and her important work.”
RFE/RL’s status in Azerbaijan has been closely related to Ismayilova’s for years. She was chief of its Azerbaijani Service’s Baku bureau in 2008-2010, before embarking on deep investigative reporting in the years that followed exposing corruption linked to members of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family. RFE/RL vigorously defended her against a blackmail attempt in 2012, and hired legal counsel, lashing her defense to its own, when she was imprisoned in December 2014 and Azerbaijani authorities raided and forcibly closed RFE/RL’s Baku bureau. At the same time, RFE/RL pressed the U.S. Congress and international agencies and NGOs to urge that she be freed. She was released from prison in May 2016, although she and other former employees remain subject to travel bans and other sanctions.
Ismayilova’s and RFE/RL’s legal status remain intertwined to this day, as reflected in complaints each has filed with the European Court of Human Rights. “Khadija’s welfare, and the welfare of other former Baku employees, is at the center of our legal strategy, just as it has dictated the various other forms of support we’ve provided to help defend against the Azerbaijani government’s continuing arbitrary and retaliatory acts,” Fly said.
RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, known locally as Radio Azadliq, remains an indispensable source of independent news in the country, actively publishing text, audio, and video content on the web, via satellite, and on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and other digital platforms.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 34 million people in 26 languages and 22 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 2.6 billion times on Facebook and YouTube in FY2018. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.