Azerbaijan: OCCRP Reporter Takes Harassment to Human Rights Court

Published: 03 October 2013


OCCRP country coordinator and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Khadija Ismayilova asked the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to help bring an end to the continued harassment and smear campaign against her.

According to the UK-based group Media Legal Defense Initiative, Ismayilova brought a complaint to the ECHR regarding her treatment in Azerbaijan.  In her complaint Ismayilova condemned the treatment she has received by Azerbaijani authorities and noted that the Azerbaijani government should be legally responsible for providing protection from the violence and threats.

Beginning in 2010 Ismayilova, recipient of the Women's Courage in Journalism Award, published a series of articles revealing the corrupt behavior of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family.  Her pro-democracy and anti-corruption reporting made her a target of corrupt politicians, organized crime figures, and supporters of Aliyev.  In 2012 Ismayilova began suffering personal attacks including an anonymous package containing intimate pictures of her and her boyfriend taken with secret surveillance equipment installed in her house with a note reading "Whore, behave.  Or you will be disgraced."  When Ismayilova refused to be silenced a video of her and her boyfriend having sex was posted online and a slanderous article suggesting the death of her mother appeared in a state-connected newspaper.

Ismayilova contacted authorities but no investigations by the prosecutor's office occurred and no arrests were made.

Ismayilova’s treatement elicited condemnation from international NGOs, media outlets, and the US Embassy in Baku.  In August Reporters Without Borders led a call along with 10 other NGOs for an end to the smear campaign.

Ismayilova declared that her privacy has been violated at the hands of Azerbaijani authorities.  She stated that her mistreatment was in direct response to her journalism and asked to be paid damages.

Azerbaijan is consistently ranked towards the bottom in press freedom, and Azerbaijani President Aliyev was named OCCRP's organized crime and corruption Person of the Year in 2012.