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The Khadija Project Named Finalist For Global Shining Light Award

RFE/RL Journalist Khadija Ismayilova hugs her mother after being released from custody on May 25, 2016. (File photo).

PRAGUE -- The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) has named The Khadija Project one of twelve finalists for the Global Shining Light Award (GSLA), a prize honoring investigative journalism reported under dire conditions or threat.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Azerbaijani Service is a contributor to the project, which was developed to continue the investigative work of previously imprisoned RFE/RL reporter Khadija Ismayilova and is led by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in collaboration with numerous other media outlets.

The project comprises a series of stories exposing corruption and crime among companies and officials in Azerbaijan, including members of the ruling Aliyev family. More than 20 reporters representing Meydan TV, Bellingcat and the International Consortium of Investigative Reporters have participated in the investigations.

Khadija Ismayilova is a prominent Azerbaijani investigative journalist who reports on the financial activities of members of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family; she hosted a hard-hitting political radio program for RFE/RL in Baku prior to her arrest in December, 2014. Ismayilova was sentenced in 2015 to more than seven years in prison on charges that foreign governments, members of the US Congress, and international media advocacy and human rights groups said were fabricated by Azerbaijani authorities in retaliation for her reporting.

Ismayilova was released in May 2016, but is barred from leaving the country. The Khadija Project builds on her investigations while also recognizing the work of other political prisoners who are behind bars in Azerbaijan for criticizing the government.

Ismayilova’s work earned her the GSLA in 2013, which she shared with RFE/RL correspondent Nushabe Fatullayeva and journalists Pavla Holcova and Jaromir Hason of the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism. RFE/RL journalist Natalie Sedletska was one of several Ukrainian reporters to win the award for the YanukovychLeaks project in 2015.

The GSLA, presented every two years by the GIJN, recognizes and celebrates courageous investigative journalists for work that “exposes uncomfortable truths, shines light on systematic corruption, and promotes public accountability”. The recipient of this year’s prize will be named in November at the 2017 Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa.