CPJ calls on Azerbaijan to free jailed journalist Khadija Ismayilova

New York, July 23, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately release Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist who has been imprisoned since December on charges of embezzlement, tax evasion, and abuse of power, among others. Ismayilova’s trial is scheduled to be held on Friday in Baku, according to news reports. If convicted, she faces up to 19 years in prison. CPJ and other international press freedom groups believe the charges against Ismayilova are in retaliation for her coverage of corruption in the Azerbaijani government.

“Azerbaijan should do the right thing and free Khadija Ismayilova, along with all other journalists imprisoned in the country,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “This would be a crucial first step in addressing Azerbaijan’s tarnished image which reached a new low amid the European Games last month.”

Azerbaijan, the leading jailer of journalists in Europe and Central Asia, is holding at least seven other journalists in jail in relation to their work, according to CPJ research, which also ranks the country as one of the world’s 10 Most Censored. Authorities have persecuted journalists, as well as press freedom advocates and media lawyers, and forced them to censor themselves or go into exile or hiding to avoid politically motivated prosecutions or imprisonment.