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.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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