Press release April 30, 2019
Azerbaijan: Government Must Stop Blackmailing Women Journalists in Response to Criticism
Government officials in Azerbaijan continue to threaten critical women journalists.
In response to the latest attempt by the authorities in Azerbaijan to blackmail women journalists, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The practice of threatening to release intimate personal information in order to coerce women journalists to cease their critical reporting is a grave violation of their right to privacy, freedom of expression, and human dignity,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The government must stop this practice at once. Women journalists must be able to work in Azerbaijan without fear of blackmail.”
The latest victim in the government of Azerbaijan’s degrading smear campaign against female journalists is Sevinj Osmangizi. A progovernment television channel, Real TV, threatened to release intimate videos, almost certainly obtained through government surveillance of Osmangizi, if she did not cease her critical reporting. Earlier in April, Real TV aired a leaked audio recording of a personal conversation between Osmangizi and another journalist. On April 28, Osmangizi delivered a public address asserting that she will not be silenced by “mafia-like threats.”
The government has previously employed this tactic to silence women journalists. One of the most notable cases was Khadija Ismayilova, who was blackmailed by the authorities with a hidden-camera sex tape to curtail her investigative journalism on high-level corruption in 2012. In January, The European Court of Human Rights unanimously ruled that Azerbaijan violated Ismayilova’s right to private and family life and her freedom of expression.
More recently, intimate photos and videos, including photoshopped images, of journalist and Popular Front Party activist Fatima Movlamli were leaked on social media. The latest leak occurred in April, and was likely connected to her activism. In March 2018, police from the Antitrafficking Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs arrested Movlamli and held her incommunicado for five days, threatening her with physical violence and rape if she did not sign a document stating that she was involved in prostitution.