The Current

Blackmailed and imprisoned by government, Azerbaijan journalist tells her story

Released from jail, Azerbaijani investigative journalist shares her experience with power, corruption, sex tapes, blackmail and revenge.
Khadija Ismayilova's reporting on the business dealings of top politicians in Azerbaijan resulted in a seven year prison sentence. (Aziz Karimov/Associated Press)

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It's a twisting tale of power, corruption, sex tapes, blackmail and revenge.  At the centre of it all is Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist who has been revealing truths the government of Azerbaijan would rather keep hidden. 

They planted a hidden camera in my bedroom, living room and bathroom.  And then they sent me pictures from a video still and the letter also included a note saying I should behave or I will be defamed.  I immediately went public with that threat.- Khadija   Ismayilova , on government blackmail 

In the 2011 documentary Amazing Azerbaijan, Ismayilova outlined her latest investigation into government corruption.  



Three years after the documentary broadcast, Ismayilova was arrested on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement and sentenced to seven years in prison. After serving a year and a half behind bars, she has just been released from prison.  

As part of The Current's occasional series, Eye on the Media, Ismayilova offers insight into the perils of investigative reporting in Azerbaijan. 

Two [blackmail videos] were shown on the TV channel ran by the president's cousin. The guys stepped back and are no [longer] journalists. We have had a journalist who was killed in 2005, with five bullets in his mouth, [...] and he was investigating the president's family.- Khadija Ismayilova


This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry.

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