16 December, 2014 / By Panorama.am
“You all know why I am here in prison. Uncovering corruption is the real reason,” Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, arrested on December 5, writes in her New Year letter sent from jail to RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service.
As the letter has it, the only way to prove oppressive regimes wrong is to continue uncovering corruption, to continue defending the rights of oppressed people. “Yes, there is a price to pay. But it is worth it! More investigations, more efforts for justice and human rights – this is my wish for 2015,” the journalist writes.
In its turn, “Reporters Without Borders,” famous human rights organisation, launched a petition on their website demanding the Azerbaijani authorities to release the journalist immediately.
The petition, addressed to the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and titled “President Aliyev: Release Khadija Ismayilova,” points out that the absurd charge against Khadija Ismayilova, the recipient of numerous international awards, is the latest example of the appalling harassment to which this trailblazer of investigative journalism has been subjected for years by Aliyev’s government in its drift towards despotism.
The petition notes that Khadija Ismayilova’s investigations into corruption, which encompass the ruling regime, and her human rights activism disturb Ilham Aliyev. “Mr. President, you have responded with increasing harshness. She has been prosecuted for spying and libel, blackmailed and targeted in a smear campaign involving an explicit video… The most despicable methods have been used to try to silence a voice that fights with courage and persistence against the abuse and violation of human rights in Azerbaijan,” the petition stresses.
It is also noted in the text of the petition that Aliyev’s autocratic, clannish and corrupt government tramples on media pluralism daily with the connivance of a compliant judicial system. The few voices that have not fled into exile and still speak out are regularly subjected to sham trials. Khadija Ismayilova joins 14 other journalists and bloggers detained without good reason in Europe’s biggest prison.
“You are doing your utmost to burnish your country’s image abroad in the run-up to the inaugural European games in Baku in July 2015. But the world is not fooled by your efforts on the sports field, President Aliyev. Your actions will be judged in the arena of freedom of information and respect for basic rights,” the petition reads.
Additionally, Christophe Deloire, “Reporters Without Borders” secretary-general, declared that in imprisoning a journalist of such worldwide repute as Khadija Ismayilova, the Baku authorities have given a huge slap in the face to all those who believe in freedom of information and human rights, the Azerbaijani information agency “Turan” reads. “The government of Ilham Aliyev orchestrated an unprecedented crackdown while Azerbaijan held the chairmanship of the Council of Europe and has now expressed in the clearest possible terms its feeling of complete impunity. It’s high time it was proved wrong,” Deloire said.
The “Reporters Without Borders” report published for 2014, is worth to mention here, as it reports the death of 66 journalists during the current year all over the world. The reason of these deaths was their professional activity. The human rights defendants also point out journalists arrested, paying attention to “Radio Liberty” journalist Khadija Ismayilova’s arrest in Azerbaijan. European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) that comprises dozens of NGOs from European countries, came up with a statement as well, condemning the mass repressions by the authorities against the civil society in Azerbaijan. The EPDE statement points out the systematic violation of social and political rights, politically-motivated persecution of democracy activists, community leaders and human rights defenders, who are charged with trumped up cases. The rights of political prisoners are being grossly violated during imprisonment, with frequent incidence of torture and other inhuman treatment.
“EPDE condemns the frivolous and unlawful criminal conviction of Anar Mammadli, Member of the Coordinating Council of the EPDE and Head of Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS, Azerbaijan), and the deputy head of EMDS, Bashir Suleymanli. EPDE also expresses its concern about the repression of independent monitoring organization and the mass arrests of prominent human rights defenders Leyla Yunus and Intigam Aliyev,” the statement says.