Azerbaijani Journalist Khadija Ismailova Faces Intimidation
The recent intimidation of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Khadija Ismailova was a striking reminder of the dire state of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. On March 7, Ismailova received a letter threatening to ‘defame’ her unless she ‘behaved.’ She is renowned for her investigative reporting, uncovering several cases of elite corruption in Azerbaijan – including against members of President Ilham Aliyev’s family. Hundreds of Azerbaijani activists have come to her defense via social media. Freedom House calls on Azerbaijani authorities to launch an investigation into the blackmail against Ismailova in an effort to ensure the safety of Azerbaijani journalists.
Azerbaijan is a repressive and authoritarian state, where violations of the right to freedom of expression are commonplace, according to Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press survey, as well as its Freedom on the Net report and a special report Azerbaijan: Free Expression Under Attack. Azerbaijanis guilty of libel face lengthy jail terms, with the political establishment invoking this charge against its critics to maintain a climate of fear. The brutal November 2011 murder of Azerbaijani journalist Rafig Taghi highlights the grave threat currently posed to Ismailova and other journalists.