Washington, D.C., May 7, 2019 — Azerbaijani authorities should swiftly investigate the harassment and attempted extortion of exiled journalist Sevinc Osmanqizi by pro-government broadcaster Real TV, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On April 7, Real TV aired a segment, which CPJ has reviewed, which included audio from a private conversation between Osmanqizi, who lives in the United States, and another journalist who lives in Europe. During the broadcast, a Real TV anchor accused Osmanqizi of engaging in activities against the state of Azerbaijan.
Osmanqizi hosts an online TV program, “Osmanqizi TV,” which discusses political issues in Azerbaijan and has featured figures from Azerbaijan’s political opposition. She told CPJ that the leaked conversation took place in early April via Facebook’s audio calling feature, and she did not know how Real TV obtained a recording of the conversation.
On April 21, Real TV aired another segment, which CPJ reviewed, during which an anchor threatened to release intimate photos of the journalist in seven days unless she ceased her online TV program and issued an apology.
As of May 7, Osmanqizi has continued to broadcast her program, according to a CPJ review of her YouTube page.
“These abhorrent attempts to silence a journalist must stop immediately,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator in New York. “Azerbaijani authorities should investigate these public threats and harassment of Sevinc Osmanqizi and hold the perpetrators to account. The issue of surveillance of an exiled Azeri journalist should also be investigated.”
Real TV and the Azerbaijan prosecutor general’s office did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment.
In 2012, Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova was subjected to an intimidation campaign after reporting on the ruling family’s extensive business interests, with state media organizations spearing her reputation and anonymous individuals circulating intimate videos and photos of her online, as CPJ reported at the time.