The staff of the Baku Bureau, 2015 winner
In 2014 the Baku Bureau of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, Azadliq Radiosu, braved a tumultuous year. Two staff members were beaten during the year; four received personal threats against them and families, and up to 10 members were detained several times for their coverage. On December 26, the bureau was forced to suspend operations following an illegal raid by state investigators. Following the raid, 26 members of the Baku team were subjected to hours of interrogation without legal counsel and warned of potential arrest. Several have since fled the country.
The crackdown has come as no surprise. Before its closure, the bureau had documented numerous cases of high-level corruption tied to the regime of President Ilham Aliyev.
Throughout it all, the Baku Bureau staff—14 employees and 35 freelancers—displayed uncommon courage, consummate journalistic professionalism, and deep commitment to the principles of democracy and free speech. As a team, they managed to produce over 9,000 news reports, 2,000 videos, and 2,000 hours of live radio and TV programming in 2014 before operations ceased.
Despite the pressure, threats, and unprecedented legal and financial disruption, many members of the Baku Bureau are continuing their work, albeit in a different form. In so doing, they are carrying on the bureau’s determination to fulfill its journalistic mission according to the highest professional standards—no matter the challenges.
Azerbaijan prosecutor raid the bureau
Caught on film, the government’s raid would prove to be the final video to come from the Baku Bureau: