WASHINGTON – The Broadcasting Board of Governors today condemned the arrest and detention in Baku of prominent Azerbaijani investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova and called for her speedy release. She has been sentenced to two months of pre-trial detention, and if convicted could serve three to seven years in prison.
“Khadija’s arrest is just another attempt by the Azeri government to silence its critics and restrict press freedom in Azerbaijan,” said Chairman Jeff Shell. “We are outraged at her treatment, and we call on the government of Azerbaijan to release her immediately.”
Ismayilova had been under a government-imposed travel ban, which prevented her from testifying at the November 19 hearing on “Combating Corruption in the OSCE Region” in Washington, D.C. Her absence from that hearing drew criticism from U.S. Senator Ben Cardin who urged Azerbaijan to respect the work of independent journalists. Ismayilova said she received no court summons, nor official explanation about the travel ban.
Ismayilova, a contributor to RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service and one of the hosts of the Service’s popular morning talk show “Isden Sonra,” has reported extensively on the financial activities of family members of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. Since 2012, Ismayilova has been the target of attacks in official media, on-line smear tactics, and threats of physical harm and arrest. In February, official media accused her of spying for the United States after she met with U.S. Senate staffers in Baku.