National Press Club

National Press Club to Honor Azerbaijani Journalist

May 18, 2015 | By John M. Donnelly | jdonnelly@cq.com

The National Press Club announced that it will honor an Azerbaijani reporter, Khadija Ismayilova, with one of its 2015 press freedom awards.

Ismayilova, who has reported for Radio Free Liberty/Radio Free Europe and other news organizations, has been jailed since December 2014 on a variety of charges that independent observers such as the Committee to Protect Journalists have called bogus. Ismayilova is well known for hard-hitting reporting, including on the financial dealings of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and alleged corruption in his government.

She is one of nine reporters known to be jailed in Azerbaijan on similarly trumped up charges, in addition to a greater number of political prisoners who are not journalists, according to human rights groups.

Azerbaijan will soon draw considerable attention as it hosts the European Games in June.

"We hope the world will be mindful, as it watches the European Games, of the plight of reporters and others in Azerbaijan who are merely exercising basic human rights of self-expression," said National Press Club President John Hughes. "Reporting the news is not a crime--not in Azerbaijan or anywhere else."

Each year the National Press Club presents John Aubuchon Press Freedom Awards to reporters or others who manifest the values of a free press. The award is named after a deceased former president of the club who was a champion of press freedom. The Aubuchon awards are generally presented at the Club's annual journalism awards dinner. This year's dinner is set for July 29.

The Aubuchon award goes to a U.S. winner and a foreign recipient. Ismayilova is the foreign winner of the Aubuchon award. As for the domestic award, this year the NPC is honoring two people, the U.S. reporters known to be detained overseas: Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post, held in Iran for nearly 10 months on charges that Iranian authorities have still not made clear; and Austin Tice, a freelancer who disappeared two years and eight months ago and who is believed to be detained somewhere in Syria.

The NPC, established in 1908, is the world's leading professional organization for journalists. Through its press freedom committee, the NPC speaks out for journalists worldwide and in favor of transparency.