WASHINGTON – The Broadcasting Board of Governors today expressed concern about the imprisonment of Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative reporter and contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Azerbaijani Service, and called for her immediate release following a ruling by an Azerbaijani court to extend her pre-trial detention.
On January 27, a court in Azerbaijan prolonged Ismayilova’s detention, originally set to expire on February 5, by two months. Ismayilova was arrested on politically motivated charges on December 5 and could serve three to seven years in prison if convicted.
Ismayilova is being held in a prison cell with four other women. She has written several letters from custody to record her experiences and encourage her colleagues. The latest letter, published by RFE/RL, resulted in her placement in solitary confinement as punishment.
“We are concerned about Khadija’s well-being, and outraged by the Azerbaijani government’s flagrant assaults on press freedom,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell. “Not only is Khadija unjustly imprisoned on a fabricated accusation, but our news bureau in Baku remains sealed by Azerbaijani authorities. We demand that the authorities permit the bureau to reopen, release Khadija Ismayilova, and halt the harassment of RFE/RL journalists and their families.”
On December 26, RFE/RL’s Baku bureau was raided and closed by agents of the state’s “grave crimes investigations committee” in connection with a new law on “foreign agents.” The same law was invoked to force the National Democratic Institute, IREX, and other organizations supporting civil society development to suspend their local operations in Azerbaijan.
RFE/RL and BBG representatives have repeatedly contacted Azerbaijani officials to protest her case without success.
The BBG joins RFE/RL, the U.S. Department of State, Amnesty International, OSCE, Index on Censorship, and many other officials and organizations in condemning the Azerbaijani government’s imprisonment of Ismayilova and assault on freedom of expression.