National Press Club

Press Club Welcomes Azeri Reporter’s Release From Jail

May 25, 2016 | By Rachel Oswald | rachelm.oswald@gmail.com

Journalist Khadija Ismayilova sits at a laptop computer as she inspects the page of Panama Papers.

Journalist Khadija Ismayilova sits at a laptop computer as she inspects the page of Panama Papers.

Photo/Image: By Aziz Karimov - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The National Press Club on Wednesday applauded the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan’s decision to order the release of award-winning journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

Ismayilova has been imprisoned for a year and a half on charges widely seen as retaliation for her investigative reporting into the finances of the country's ruling family. She is expected to be freed Wednesday.

A reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Ismayilova gained domestic and international attention for her exposes on corruption tied to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev's family.

Ismayilova is a 2015 recipient of the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award. Club leaders have worked behind the scenes in Washington for months to press for her release, in addition to publicly drawing attention on multiple occasions to her unjust incarceration. The U.S. State Department has also worked hard for her release, and members of Congress have filed bipartisan resolutions on her behalf.

"We are thrilled Khadija will soon be reunited with her family," said NPC President Thomas Burr. "Khadija has been unflagging both inside and outside of prison in her commitment to advocating for government accountability and press freedom around the world. She truly is an inspiration to journalists everywhere."

The Azeri Supreme Court overturned convictions against Ismayilova for misappropriation of property and abuse of power but allowed convictions to remain in place for tax evasion and unlawful business activities, the Guardian newspaper reported. The court ordered her prison sentence of 7 1/2 years be reduced to a suspended term of 3 1/2 years.

"Although these allegations made against the presidency have been denied, everything that she has been saying has now been confirmed in the Panama Papers," said Amal Clooney, legal counsel to Ismayilova, in a YouTube video uploaded Tuesday. "As a result of her work, the government has taken a series of measures against her.... There wasn't a shred of evidence presented at trial that implicated her in any of these crimes."

The National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club works to promote freedom of expression and transparency at home and abroad. The National Press Club Journalism Institute, a non-profit affiliate, equips news professionals with the skills to innovate, leverages emerging trends, recognizes innovators and mentors the next generation.

Contact: Rachel Oswald, rachelm.oswald@gmail.com; 202 486 9173.