December 8, 2014

GIJN Calls for Immediate Release of Khadija Ismayilova by Azerbaijan

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Khadija collageThe Global Investigative Journalism Network has joined a growing chorus of media organizations, human rights groups, governments, and others around the world calling for the immediate release of journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Ms. Ismayilova was arrested on Friday and imprisoned for at least two months on charges that are widely seen as part of a campaign to silence independent media and civil society in Azerbaijan.

Ms. Ismayilova is an internationally recognized investigative reporter, known for her work with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) digging into the hidden business affairs of Azerbaijan’s first family. She also reports for Radio Free Europe from her base in Baku. Her gutsy reporting last year won her the Global Shining Light Award, given by GIJN “for investigative journalism in a developing or transitioning country, done under threat, duress, or in the direst of conditions.” She has also been honored with a Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation.

The arrest has triggered a global storm of criticism. Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, has condemned the arrest as “nothing but orchestrated intimidation, which is a part of the ongoing campaign aimed at silencing her free and critical voice.” Amnesty International brands it a “blatant attempt to gag free media.” The Committee to Protect Journalists calls it part of a campaign of “trumped-up charges and arrests.” Protests are underway in at least four countries.

“There has been a tremendous journalistic response to the jailing of our mutual colleague Khadija,” notes Drew Sullivan of OCCRP, which is coordinating a global response to the case. “Even though she comes from a small country in a remote part of the world, the international condemnation has been swift and loud.  I know Khadija will be happy.”

A “Free Khadija” Facebook page launched yesterday has quickly grown to more than 1,000 people. And the Twitter hashtag #FreeKhadija is buzzing with the latest news.

More troubling for the Azerbaijan regime than the widespread condemnation is that Ismayilova’s imprisonment has triggered a global campaign by investigative journalists to dig into the assets and business dealings of President Ilham Aliyev and his cronies. The very scrutiny officials in Baku hoped to squash is now being multiplied around the world. As Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, tweeted:

What you can do:

  • Support the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Write letters to the Azerbaijan ambassador in the country nearest you, and include the latest coverage.
  • Journalists interested in joining the global investigation into assets held by the Aliyev regime, contact Drew Sullivan,

Below is the letter GIJN sent to the Azerbaijan prosecutor’s office and its ambassador to the United States:

December 5, 2014

Mr. Elin Suleymanov, Ambassador
Embassy of Azerbaijan
United States

Dear Mr. Suleymanov,

I represent the Washington, D.C.-based Global Investigative Journalism Network, an association of more than 100 media organizations in 50 countries. We are dismayed to learn of the arrest and detention of journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

The charges against her appear without merit and are not deserving of a professional prosecutor’s office. Nor do they reflect well on the Azerbaijan government’s professed support of a free press. We ask for her immediate release.

Our members will be monitoring closely what happens regarding Ms. Ismayilova’s treatment and prosecution. You can be assured that we will be bringing scrutiny of the Azerbaijan government to the global stage.

Most sincerely,

David E. Kaplan, Executive Director
Global Investigative Journalism Network
At, on Facebook and Twitter

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