European Federation of Journalists

Azerbaijan: Supreme Court denies Khadija Ismayilova’s request for early end of her probation

On August 7, the Azerbaijani Supreme Court decided to uphold its charges against investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who was accused of tax evasion. After she has been living under a probation sentence for three and a half years, the former correspondent of RadioFreeEurope / Radio Liberty seeked for an early termination of her probation. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) condemns the court’s decision and demands Azerbaijani authorities to stop her repressions.

Since 2010, Ismayilova had been writing on cases of corruption linked to the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family, until she was imprisoned in 2014 after a government-driven smear campaign against her. The journalist was sentenced to seven and a half years in jail, but set free after a year and a half due to harsh criticism of international human rights organizations. Since that, Ismayilova’s probationary sentence forbids her to travel or work. Furthermore her bank accounts are frozen.

“I am concerned by the Supreme Court decision in Azerbaijan, rejecting Khadija Ismayilova’s petition for early termination of her probation period. Her continued foreign travel ban is a serious hindrance on her professional activity as a journalist.”, said OSCD Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir.

“We are convinced that the constant harassment against Khadija Ismayilova is intended to silence her, to prevent her from working. We call on the authorities to put an end to this latent censorship,” said the EFJ General secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

According to the “Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project” (OCCRP), the Azerbaijani government has accused her of “multiple offenses since 2014, from criminal libel to encouraging a colleague to commit suicide.”, in order to intimidate her. Ismayilova won several prices for her investigative journalism, such as the Right Livelihood Award, the PEN Freedom to Write Award and the Courage in Journalism Award.

Photo credit: AP/Todd Williamson.