Smear Campaign Escalates Against Azerbaijani RFERL Reporter
Freedom House condemns the escalating smear campaign against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Khadija Ismailova and commends her vow to continue her investigative reporting. In the latest twist in the ongoing intimidation campaign against one of Azerbaijan’s leading investigative journalists, a video containing sensitive content from the journalist’s private life was posted on a website created only days earlier. It purports to show her engaged in sexual activities, and comes just days after she received a threatening letter and the ruling party’s official newspaper published an article attacking Ismailova and other members of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan staff. The newly-created website was established just days earlier and is hosted by a company based in the United States.
Ismailova is best known for her coverage of elite corruption, including among members of President Ilham Aliyev’s family. She said Wednesday that she refuses to be intimidated and RFE/RL reiterated its full support for Ismailova. An investigation has reportedly been launched in response to a complaint filed by Ismailova on March 9 regarding the newspaper article and a government official has condemned the video as a violation of the journalist’s privacy, pledging that law enforcement would investigate.
Freedom House welcomes the official’s pledge and calls on Azerbaijani authorities to immediately conduct a full investigation into the blackmail and smear campaign against Ismailova and respect the role of an investigatory press.
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