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(official press release of Amnesty International)
Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani (Yemen) and Aqil Xalil (Azerbaijan) shortlisted
Amnesty International UK has shortlisted a Yemeni and an Azerbaijani journalist for its 2008 "Special Award For Human Rights Journalism Under Threat", part of the organisation's annual media awards.
Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani, 42, the former editor of Yemen's political weekly newspaper Al-Shura, is currently standing trial in Yemen on vaguely-worded charges and, if found guilty, could face a jail sentence. Prior to this, Al-Khaiwani has been repeatedly targeted over his journalism – with incidents of harassment, censorship, defamation and even death threats.
Meanwhile Aqil Xalil, 24, a correspondent with Azadliq, a newspaper critical of the Azerbaijani authorities, has been the victim of threats and serious attacks that may relate to his journalism. In March this year Mr Xalil was stabbed in the chest by four unknown assailants and was seriously injured. Other journalists working for Azadliq have also been assaulted and the paper has been the subject of government-backed actions seemingly designed to silence it.
Amnesty International UK Media Director Mike Blakemore said:
"Every year Amnesty makes an award to a journalist somewhere in the world whose human rights journalism has placed them at risk.
"Sadly journalism is an extremely perilous profession in many parts of the world and Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani and Aqil Xalil are just two of the at-risk journalists we could have chosen.
"However, by drawing attention to their cases we are calling upon the relevant authorities to ensure their safety, protect their rights to free expression and free movement, while also sending out the message that no journalist anywhere in the world should be attacked or imprisoned simply for doing their job."
The Amnesty "Special Award" is made by a panel of Amnesty experts and activists from the organisation's UK headquarters and its International Secretariat, and the selected journalist will be invited to receive the award in person at the media awards ceremony in London on 17 June.
Amnesty has been making a Special Award to a journalist for the last 10 years and past winners have included the Honduran online magazine editor Dina Meza, Russian journalists Stanislav Dmitrievskiy and Oksana Chelysheva, and the Guatemalan broadcaster and columnist Marielos Monzón.
The shortlist for Amnesty International UK's other contested media awards were also recently announced. These will see awards made in 10 different categories – Photojournalism, Television News, Radio, Online Media, National Newspapers, International Television and Radio, Nations and Regions, Periodicals, Television Documentary and Docudrama, and a Gaby Rado Memorial award to an emerging human rights journalist.