March 9th, 2012
On March 7, Azerbaijan's best-known female journalist Khadija Ismayilova, a freelancer for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), received an envelope in the post containing photos of intimate nature and a threatening note.

The letter says that unless she stops ‘behaving improperly’, she will be 'defamed', reported Ismayilova in her statement on Facebook.


It seems it will take more than this crude and nasty action to weaken Ismayilova's commitment to free expression and professional journalism. Her statement continues: “This threat is not a surprise for me.  I have been doing investigative journalism for a long time. My investigation included the secret business of president Ilham Aliyev’s family and documented the facts of corruption on the highest level, disclosed the offshore businesses of members of the ruling family. Currently I am working on several investigative reports. I have sent inquires to the Government offices about businesses of ruling family. For a long time my journalistic activity has been the source of concern for the government. I have been a subject of attacks and slander in pro-government newspapers. I have been absurdly accused of having Armenian relatives and working for foreign intelligence. Till now many of my colleagues have been subjected to blackmailed with discrediting information and I have been expecting new dirty blackmailing moves from people who are stealing the public money. I was envisioning this and was ready to face it,” says Ismayilova, adding that she “will continue her professional activity and work, because the journalist who respects the profession cannot act otherwise.”

Steven Korn, RFE/RL president, described the incident as a "hideous attempt at blackmail that has no place in a civil society", and said “We are proud of Khadija and we stand behind her and her work."


The Institute Reporters’ Freedom and Safety condemns this foul and ugly action in the strongest terms, and deems the attempted blackmailing of well-known and highly professional journalist Khadija Ismayilova an act of interference in her private life, a threat to free speech, and furthermore suspects that Azerbaijani intelligence bodies are behind it.