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RFE/RL Journalist Is Sentenced to Prison

BBG says it is "appalled," blames political motivations

The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors condemned the sentencing of Khadija Ismayilova, a reporter and contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani Service.

She was sentenced in Azerbaijan to seven and a half years in prison, the board said said. “Ismayilova was arrested on politically motivated charges on Dec. 5, 2014, and has been held in pretrial detention since.” According to a BBC news account, government officials and pro-government media outlets have accused her of being “pro-Armenian” or an “international agent.”

BBG Chairman Jeff Shell said the organization was “appalled” by the verdict, calling it retribution for the reporter’s work on government corruption and an outcome that “sends a warning shot to other journalists in the country.” BBG said the Committee to Protect Journalists counts at least seven other journalists having been imprisoned in the country this year, and noted that RFE/RL’s Baku bureau was raided and closed last December. RFE/RL says several of its employees have fled the country.

According to RFE/RL, Ismayilova was convicted on charges of criminal libel, tax evasion, illegal business activity and abuse of power. It reported that no witnesses testified against her in court. Read details in its account of the case.