New York — Khadija Ismayilova, investigative journalist for RFE/RL’s Azerbaijan Service, was one of three recipients of the International Women’s Media Foundation’s “Courage in Journalism” award, given in New York on October 24. Ismayilova was honored for her unflinching reporting in the face of continued harassment, slander campaigns, blackmail, and threats for her exposés of corruption within the Azeri government.
CBS News journalist Leslie Stahl presented Ismayilova with her award, noting the extreme conditions under which she and other journalists in Azerbaijan cover the news.
“Investigative journalists, especially those who report on the president or his business dealings, are favorite targets of slander in state-run media. Reporters and editors are labeled as ‘terrorists’, ‘enemies of freedom’ and worse by government actors,” Stahl said. “Khadija Ismayilova is no exception.”
RFE/RL President Steve Korn welcomed the IWMF’s recognition of Ismayilova’s achievements and her commitment to journalistic excellence. “Khadija’s courage, skill and persistence in the face of the most vile threats and extreme provocation is an inspiration to all of her colleagues at RFE/RL.”
Ismayilova’s work and the attacks against her have attracted international attention. Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House and other human rights groups have rallied to her defense. In early 2012, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) sent a personal letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, criticizing his country’s “climate of intimidation.”
In accepting her award, Ismayilova called on the international community, including democratic administrations and their diplomats, to “take responsibility for holding governments and officials that perpetrate crimes against journalists accountable.”
“There is a huge burden on the international community to stand up and defend the voiceless. Prizes like these are of course an honor for individual journalists. They also shine a light on societies that are in trouble,” Ismayilova said. “There is also a need for the simple act of criticism, an appropriate show of outrage, a public rebuke, or even a simple question, when basic rights are flagrantly violated.”
(Read Ismayilova’s interview with Radio Azadliq on her IWMF award.)
The IWMF award is given to “journalists who have shown extraordinary strength of character and integrity while reporting the news under dangerous or difficult circumstances.” Asmaa al-Ghoul, a freelance journalist from Gaza, and Reeyot Alemu, an imprisoned Ethiopian columnist, also received this year’s award. The ceremony was hosted by Christiane Amanpour of CNN/ABC News, and Cynthia McFadden of ABC News. Also in attendance were many prominent women in the U.S. media, including Ann Curry, Martha Raddatz, Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, Pat Mitchell, Katty Kay, Judy Woodruff and Cindi Leive. An additional “Courage In Journalism” event will take place in Los Angeles on October 29.
Founded in 1990 by a group of prominent U.S. women journalists, the IWMF is a Washington-based organization dedicated to strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide. For more about the IWMF awards, visit iwmf.org.
RFE/RL is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, and television — reach influential audiences in 21 countries, including Russia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the republics of Central Asia. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).