Reporters Without Borders Recognizes OCCRP partners
Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit organization (NGO) focusing on freedom of expression and information, has featured Assen Yordanov and Khadija Ismayilova on their “100 Information Heroes” list.
In honor of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the NGO recognized those who “through their courageous work or activism” uphold the values of free speech protected by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Assen Yordanov is the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)’s partner in Bulgaria, and Ismayilova is OCCRP’s regional coordinator in Azerbaijan.
Yordanov, who founded Bivol.bg in October 2010, was recognized for uncovering corruption and organized crime in Bulgaria. Bivol.bg is a whistle-blowing site which hosts BalkanLeaks, a “wikileaks” inspired platform that has published secret documents such as US diplomatic cables on Bulgaria and nearby countries in the Balkan region.
The name of the site means “buffalo” in Bulgarian, reports Hungarian newspaper atlatszo.hu, and harkens back to Yordanov’s previous career as a buffalo herder.
Reporters Without Borders also recognized Ismayilova, highlighting her in-depth investigative reporting into corruption in the Azerbaijani government.
Ismayilova has been the victim of smear campaigns and has had intimate footage of her secretly filmed and published in an attempt to blackmail her into silence.
She and her fellow Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondents were honored with the Global Investigative Journalism Network’s 2013 Global Shining Light Award for continuing to investigate Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family despite these tactics.
Ismayilova said she is proud to be on the same list with journalists and free speech activists such as Iranian-Azerbaijani journalist Said Matinpour and Ethiopian reporter Reyot Alemu.
She said that the fight continues behind bars, specifically referencing the eight youth activists from the Azerbaijani civic movement NIDA!, who are now on a hunger strike while waiting for a verdict in their case. The members of the social action group are accused of organizing riots and possessing illegal weapons and drugs.
“Freedom to Information heroes!” said Ismayilova.