(PRAGUE – May 4, 2012) Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist and popular talk show host with RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, has received the 2012 “Courage in Journalism Award” given by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). The award, presented annually to three women journalists who have “demonstrated extraordinary strength of character in pursuing their profession under difficult or dangerous circumstances,” was announced on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.
Ismayilova will accept the IWMF award later this year at events in New York and Los Angeles. Over her career, she has filed several award-winning reports on corruption in the highest echelons of Azerbaijani society — including investigative pieces on the vast wealth of the country’s ruling elite. Previous “Courage in Journalism Award” winners include RFE/RL Balkan Service Director Gordana Knezevic as well as Jill Carroll, Anna Politkovskaya, and Shahla Sherkat.
Ismayilova’s work has also been championed by U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, the top ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who wrote a letter to President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan expressing “growing alarm regarding the climate of intimidation and violence towards journalists in Azerbaijan.”
In his letter Berman specifically cites the most recent smear campaign against Khadija and states, “I believe these acts are an attempt to silence Ms. Ismayilova and force her to discontinue her journalistic work looking into charges of government corruption. Despite these spurious actions, Ms. Ismayilova is defiant and is continuing to exercise her right to freedom of expression.”
Speaking in RFE/RL’s World Press Freedom Day video, Kenan Aliyev, Director of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service credited the media and human rights groups that have rallied around Ismayilova, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. “World Press Freedom Day is a reminder to all of us of what can be accomplished when the friends of factual reporting speak out for one another,” he said.
For more about the IWMF awards, please visit http://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).