Azerbaijan: International Reporters Call For Investigation Into Harassment
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and 10 other NGOs are calling for the end to a smear campaign directed at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reporter Khadija Ismayilova. In an open letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and prosecutor-general Zakir Garalov this week, RSF urged an investigation into the repeated threats made against the investigative reporter.
Ismayilova has endured an ongoing campaign of intimidation since March 2012 when she a received a package of photos of her and her boyfriend taken by cameras secretly installed in her house. The package came with a note saying "Whore, behave. Or you will be disgraced." A video of Ismayilova and her boyfriend having sex was posted online as well. She has responded by publishing the threats, vowing to continue her investigations, and sending multiple letters to the prosecutor's office.
No arrests have been made.
All details of the harassment have come solely from Ismayilova's own investigation. She discovered that the order to install surveillance equipment in her house came from an unidentified government official and that the blackmail note came from Moscow. All the while the prosecutor's office has refused to respond to the leads and the smear campaign continued with more videos appearing online.
Azerbaijan ranks 156th of 179 nations surveyed for press freedom by RSF.
The organizations signing RSF's open letter include Article 19, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights House Foundation, Human Rights Watch, International Media Support, Media Diversity Institute, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Open Society Foundations, PEN International, and People in Need Organization.
Ismayilova is a regional coordinator for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.