Eynulla Fatullayev Award Acceptance Speech

International Press Freedom Awards


Eynulla Fatullayev

Realny Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan 

Acceptance Speech

CPJ International Press Freedom Award 2009

November 22, 2011

Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue, New York City

Ladies and gentlemen,

I've come back from a place where times stands still. Neither night falls there nor does day come. Bare walls, cold, dampness, and darkness rule. In that place, it is easy to forget that there is a colorful world out there, where people walk free and some of them are even happy.

In that place, the only thing that can help you overcome your fears is shame. Not shame before a mighty power, which has the capacity to physically destroy you only because you have exercised your right to freedom of expression. But shame that comes with the realization that a journalist who gives in to intimidation, who becomes obedient, has already lost the fight for that right. And only press freedom can beget truth.

Six years ago, my colleague and close friend Elmar Huseynov was murdered. He was a brave journalist and a sharp critic of the administration.

Paying my last tribute to Elmar, I made an oath that I would solve his killing. Some time passed and I succeeded in tracking down the criminals who committed this atrocity for the purpose of silencing him. Because I found the criminals, I was immediately sent to prison.

The two newspapers I edited--which were the most popular in Azerbaijan at the time--were shuttered by a government that has no tolerance of criticism and alternative views. About 100 journalists who were on my staff or collaborated with my newspapers were subjected to all kinds of harassment--threats, beatings, persecution.

As for me, I was sentenced to a total of 16 years of imprisonment on a variety of fabricated charges--from defamation, to tax evasion, to terrorism. All of my property--including editorial equipment and even my personal computer--was confiscated. I experienced the retaliation of a relentless, repressive state at its full capacity.

In my hour of need, when I felt isolated and deserted, when I had almost lost hope that I would ever be let out of jail alive, the Committee to Protect Journalists did its utmost to save me.

I spent more than four years in detention, of which two years in solitary confinement. It was my father only who had access to me. Every week he would bring me news about your advocacy efforts, about your statements and actions in my support. These actions seemed to keep his spirits up, and kindle his and my hopes. Yes, it was your Committee that played a crucial role in my release.

Two years ago, dejected, I was sitting in my damp, dimly lit solitary cell, giving myself to solemn thoughts about the ups and downs of fortune. Every day felt like it could be my last. Suddenly, I learnt that your Committee had granted me this high prize. I felt happy, for I realized that I had escaped oblivion.

Today I'm free thanks to you and the efforts of the international community. I am trying to be conscious of what has happened, and of my responsibility to this high prize. The state's actions against me failed to shut me up and today I am determined to restart my newspapers. My readers and the people of Azerbaijan deserve to have them back.

Once again I'd like to thank you for this high honor!

More on the Awards

The ceremonyPress releaseAwardeesAl-Jamri, BahrainRadina, BelarusValdez, MexicoCheema, PakistanRather, Benjamin Award



Amal Khalifa Idris Habbani (Sudan), Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Vietnam), Luz Mely Reyes (Venezuela), Anastasiya Stanko (Ukraine)


Ahmed Abba (Cameroon), Patricia Mayorga (Mexico), Afrah Nasser (Yemen), Pravit Rojanaphruk (Thailand)


Mahmoud Abou Zeid, Shawkan (Egypt), Malini Subramaniam (India), Can Dündar (Turkey), Óscar Martínez (El Salvador)


Cándido Figueredo Ruíz (Paraguay), Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (Syria), Zone 9 Bloggers (Ethiopia), Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, “Zunar” (Malaysia)


Aung Zaw (Burma), Siamak Ghaderi (Iran), Mikhail Zygar (Russia), Ferial Haffajee (South Africa)


Janet Hinostroza (Ecuador), Bassem Youssef (Egypt), Nedim Şener (Turkey), Nguyen Van Hai (Vietnam)


Mauri König (Brazil), Dhondup Wangchen (China), Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan), Mae Azango (Liberia)


Mansoor al-Jamri (Bahrain), Natalya Radina (Belarus), Javier Valdez Cárdenas (Mexico), Umar Cheema (Pakistan)


Mohammad Davari (Iran), Nadira Isayeva (Russia), Dawit Kebede (Ethiopia), Laureano Márquez (Venezuela)


Mustafa Haji Abdinur (Somalia), Naziha Réjiba (Tunisia), Eynulla Fatullayev (Azerbijan), J.S. Tissainayagam (Sri Lanka)


Bilal Hussein (Iraq), Danish Karokhel and Farida Nekzad (Afghanistan), Andrew Mwenda (Uganda), Hector Maseda Gutiérrez (Cuba)


Dmitry Muratov (Russia), Mazhar Abbas (Pakistan), Adela Navarro Bello (Mexico), Gao Qinrong (China)


Jesús Abad Colorado (Colombia), Jamal Amer (Yemen), Madi Ceesay (The Gambia), Atwar Bahjat (Iraq)


Galima Bukharbaeva (Uzbekistan), Beatrice Mtetwa (Zimbabwe), Lúcio Flávio Pinto (Brazil), Shi Tao (China)


Svetlana Kalinkina (Belarus), Aung Pwint and Thaung Tun (Burma), Alexis Sinduhije (Burundi), Paul Klebnikov (United States)


Abdul Samay Hamed (Afghanistan), Aboubakr Jamai (Morocco), Musa Muradov (Russia), Manuel Vázquez Portal (Cuba)


Ignacio Gómez (Colombia), Tipu Sultan (Bangladesh), Irina Petrushova (Kazakhstan), Fesshaye Yohannes (Eritrea)


Jiang Weiping (China), Geoff Nyarota (Zimbabwe), Horacio Verbitsky (Argentina), Mazen Dana (West Bank)


Zeljko Kopanja (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Modeste Mutinga (DRC), Steven Gan (Malaysia), Mashallah Shamsolvaezin (Iran)


Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández (Cuba), Baton Haxhiu (Kosovo), Jugnu Mohsin and Najam Sethi (Pakistan), María Cristina Caballero (Colombia)


Grémah Boucar (Niger), Gustavo Gorriti (Panama), Pavel Sheremet (Belarus), Ruth Simon (Eritrea)


Viktor Ivancic (Croatia), Freedom Neruda (Ivory Coast), Christine Anyanwu (Nigeria). Ying Chan (United States) and Shieh Chung-Liang (Taiwan)


Ocak Isik Yurtçu (Turkey), Daoud Kuttab (Palestinian Authority), J. Jesus Blancornelas (Mexico), Yusuf Jameel (India)

Social Media

View All ›