GENEVA (5 December 2017) – Azerbaijan should lift its travel ban on investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova and strengthen media independence in the country, two UN human rights experts* have urged in a joint statement.
Ms. Ismayilova has won an award for her investigative work but is unable to travel to Sweden in December to receive it.
“Khadija Ismayilova’s courageous work as an investigative journalist has earned her a Right Livelihood Award for 2017, which she is unable to receive because the very same work has been used to place her under the travel ban,” the experts said.
“The ban stifles her right to freedom of expression as it is aimed at preventing her from travelling abroad to speak about human rights issues. We urge the authorities to lift it and to ensure that journalism is not being restricted under false pretences.”
Ms. Ismayilova has been invited to speak at a seminar for Right Livelihood Laureates on 1 December, and to receive her award in Stockholm on the same day. She has also been invited to an event at the Graduate Institute of Geneva on 6 December.
Her attempts to challenge the travel ban in the courts have failed. The Ministry of Justice imposed the five-year travel restriction in 2016, after the Supreme Court suspended an earlier seven-and-a-half-year jail term, reportedly imposed in retaliation for Ms. Ismayilova’s criticism of the authorities.
The UN experts also raised concern about the Court decision of 14 November, which upon request from tax authorities, ordered to freeze Ms. Ismayilova’s bank account, warning that the move would prevent her from receiving the award money and thereby hinder her future work as a journalist.
“The measures against Ms. Ismayilova by the authorities go far beyond what is legitimate. It is detrimental to her individual case and also to the exercise of independent journalism in the country,” the experts added.
*The UN experts: Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.