Azerbaijan: Jailed Journalist Khadija Ismayilova Honored By US National Press Club

Published: 30 July 2015

Khadija Ismayilova (left)

By Igor Spaic

Jailed investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has won the US National Press Club’s most prestigious press freedom award.

Ismayilova, a contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE-RL) in Azerbaijan and member of OCCRP, has been held in pretrial detention by Azerbaijani authorities for 234 days on charges described by her and human rights groups as politically motivated.

Her editor at RFE-RL, Nenad Pejic, said the accolade was testament to her bravery and values.

As he accepted the award on her behalf, Pejic added: “But it is also a call to all of us here tonight to condemn her imprisonment and demand her freedom.”

Last Friday, at the first hearing of her trial in the capital Baku, a judge rejected motions by her lawyers to dismiss charges of tax evasion and embezzlement.

A crowd of onlookers including journalists, activists and diplomats gathered outside a courthouse in Baku to show their support for Ismayilova. Most were not allowed to enter the courtroom.

During the hearing, Ismayilova said that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had jailed her to stop her work as a journalist.

“But even though I’m here, my colleagues continue their investigations,” she said.

The John Aubuchon Press Freedom Awards arepresented annually by the National Press Club in Washington DC.

Other recipients of the 2015 awards include Austin Tice, who has been detained in Syria since 2012, and Jason Rezaian, imprisoned in Iran for over a year.