Azerbaijani journalist vows to ignore threats

Azerbaijani journalist vows to ignore threats

Khadija Ismailova says she was being blackmailed by people threatening to expose her personal life in order to stop her from reporting.
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Khadija Ismailova pictured. Photo courtesy Radio Liberty.

A leading Azerbaijani journalist on March 14 said she was being blackmailed to stop her high-profile investigative reporting after a covertly-filmed explicit video of her was posted on the Internet.

But Khadija Ismayilova, who reports for Radio Liberty's Azerbaijani Service and has won several awards for her work exposing official corruption in the oil-rich ex-Soviet state, said she would not give in to threats.

"The appearance of this video clip will not stop me and I will continue my work," Ismayilova told AFP after the video allegedly showing her with a man was released on an Azerbaijani website overnight.

Last week she received a letter threatening to humiliate her if she did not "behave".

She said that the attempted blackmail was not only an invasion of her privacy but "an attempt on my life" in the socially conservative, mainly Muslim country.

International media rights campaigners have demanded an investigation.

"We are appalled by the intimidation tactics being used to try to silence our colleague Khadija Ismayilova and call on the Azerbaijani authorities to guarantee her safety and bring all of the culprits to justice," the Committee to Protect Journalists said after the initial threat was received.

Azerbaijani rights activists blamed supporters of strongman President Ilham Aliyev for the threats after Ismayilova exposed his daughters' alleged business interests.

"We will always stand by Khadija Ismayilova, who reveals economic crimes and the corruption of the authorities," a group of female activists said in an open letter.

In a leaked diplomatic cable from 2009 published by Wikileaks, Aliyev is said to have described Ismayilova as an "enemy of the government" and asked the American ambassador to Baku to intervene to get her dismissed by US-funded Radio Liberty.

The Azerbaijani authorities have consistently rejected accusations that free speech in the country is seriously limited by restrictive legislation, official censorship, punitive prosecutions and assaults on journalists.

Source: AFP

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