9 March 2012

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Sign the petition to support threatened anti-corruption reporter Khadija Ismayilova


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Show your support for a brave anti-corruption journalist in Azerbaijan who has received graphic threats warning her to stop "behaving improperly." The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) "strongly condemns the blackmail attempt against RFE/RL reporter Khadija Ismayilova, a low and ugly act seeking to silence a journalist." She also works for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which has created a petition you can sign here.

The award-winning Ismayilova is the OCCRP regional coordinator and Radio Liberty Baku Bureau's correspondent. On 7 March, she received an envelope in the post containing photos of an intimate nature and a threatening note. The letter says that unless she stops "behaving improperly," she will be "defamed." According to the OCCRP, the photos are of a graphic sexual nature.

"Ismayilova has written numerous investigative articles exposing corruption among high-ranking Azerbaijan officials and their families, causing public scandal," says IRFS. She had previously been targeted by pro-government forces and the state media has repeatedly published what IRFS calls "smear articles containing false information about Ismayilova."

Other Azerbaijani journalists have been attacked using the same methods, reports IRFS. They include Ganimat Zahid, editor-in-chief of "Azadliq" newspaper, finance director Azer Ahmadov and reporters Natig Gulahmadoglu and Gan Tural. Video clips containing intimate scenes were posted on the Internet, which to IRFS indicates a pattern of "repeated and centralised smear campaigns against journalists who publish material critical of the government."

IRFS adds that the "government employs a range of tactics in opposition to free expression, including arrests of journalists, lack of commitment to investigations of assassinations of journalists, and illegal violation of the right to privacy. Nonetheless, impunity prevails. None of these cases has resulted in the arrest or conviction of the perpetrators, leading to suspicion that that state officials are behind these criminal actions."

Noting that the country is in contravention of what it has undertaken to do before the UN and Council of Europe, IRFS has called on "the Azerbaijani government to identify and punish the person or persons behind the attack on Ismayilova, to provide her with protection, and to demonstrate tolerance towards the freedom of expression."

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| AZERBAIJAN : Anti-corruption journalist receives threats, explicit images 8 March 2012
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