Azerbaijan: Prize-winning OCCRP Reporter Questioned by Regime

Authorities from the Department for Grave Crimes in Baku summoned Khadija Ismayilova, OCCRP regional coordinator and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty correspondent, for questioning Tuesday relating to an alleged leak of state secrets.

Last week, pro-government media outlets claimed that Ismayilova handed over files to undercover United States intelligence agents posing as members of the US Congress, reports azadliq.org.

Ismayilova, who won the 2013 Global Shining Light Award for reporting on government corruption and the unethical business dealings of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family, said the accusations were a  “provocation” from the government in an attempt to intimidate her.

Khadija_Ismayilova
Khadija Ismayilova

This is not the first time Ismayilova has faced pressure from government authorities for her reporting in Azerbaijan, whose press freedom has been called “appalling” by Reporters Without Borders.

Ismayilova has been the repeated target of smear campaigns, and in 2012 secretly videotaped footage of her having sex with her boyfriend were released in an attempt to blackmail her into silence. 

The U.S. Embassy in Baku called the allegations against Ismayilova “absurd,” saying that congressional staff members routinely go to Azerbaijan to meet with representatives and inform themselves of what is going on in the region.

“The Azerbaijan government is using the bad government playbook for harassing Khadija. I thought trumped up charges and kangaroo courts went out of style with Stalin,” said Drew Sullivan, editor of OCCRP. “Azerbaijan is at serious odds with democratic principles, good government and basic human rights.”