Prominent Journalist Prevented from Leaving Azerbaijan

On the morning of 12 October, Khadija Ismayilova, a prominent journalist in Azerbaijan, was prevented from leaving the country by the Prosecutor’s Office to attend a meeting. The legal reasons for the imposed travel ban are yet unclear. Ismayilova is renowned for her investigative reporting on the activities of the government and has often been subjected to intimidation by the authorities as a result of her work.

“Civil Rights Defenders calls on the Azerbaijani authorities to clarify the reasons for this current course of action and immediately lift the travel ban that was imposed on journalist Khadija Ismayilova early this morning. The travel ban is yet another example of the relentless crackdown by authorities against human rights defenders in Azerbaijan,” said Robert Hårdh, Executive Director, Civil Rights Defenders.

Prior to the travel ban Khadija Ismayilova had been briefly detained on October 3 at Baku International Airport after a visit to Strasbourg with members of the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe (PACE) and received a court summons on charges of criminal libel while on that trip. The libel charges are thought to emanate from a document that she posted on social media claiming how the Azerbaijani secret services used sex tapes to blackmail dissidents in an effort to coerce them into cooperating with the regime.

In other recent cases against human rights defenders the authorities have used trumped up charges of corruption, tax evasion, or drugs possession to prevent them from carrying out their human rights work. Azerbaijani prisons continue to fill with political activists, journalists and human rights defenders while at the same time the country presides over the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe.