Khadija Ismayilova Credit Aziz Karimli

Open Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Elmar Mammadyarov
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Shikhali Gurbanov str. 50, Baku AZ 1009


We, the undersigned Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ are writing this letter to bring to your attention the difficult situation for our fellow Laureate Khadija Ismayilova and other journalists in Azerbaijan.

Khadija Ismayilova was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2017 for her “outstanding investigative journalism in the name of transparency and accountability”.

Ms. Ismayilova is not the only journalist who has been harassed, Azerbaijan is ranked 162 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index. A number of Azeri journalists are currently under travel ban or in jail simply for exercising their freedom of speech and expression through their independent journalism.

Amongst those who have been persecuted for their journalistic profession is Afghan Mukhtarli. Mukhtarli was abducted from the Georgian capital Tbilisi on 29 May 2017, only to appear the next day suspiciously in the custody of Azeri police custody charged with illegally crossing the border carrying €10,000. Mukhtarli has been held in pre-trial detention ever since, with his trial due to begin on 30 November and no further information concerning how was transported back to Azerbaijan.

In May, 2017 Mehman Huseynov, an anti-corruption journalist and the chairman of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, was sentenced to two years imprisonment on charges of defaming a police station. Huseynov had been subjected to a travel ban since 2012. The charges followed accusations by Huseynov of abuse by officers at the Nasimi district police station. An investigation into the claims against the officers was never carried out, instead it is Huseynov who has found himself behind bars for attempting to expose police brutality.

In this context of harassment and persecution of journalists in Azerbaijan, we are deeply distressed by the enduring restrictive measures which have been placed upon Ms. Ismayilova since her release from prison on 25 May 2016. Despite her release, Ms. Ismayilova has now been refused her right to travel abroad on four separate occasions by the judiciary, a right which is enshrined in Article 28 of the Azerbaijani Constitution. The decision to freeze Ms. Ismayilova’s bank accounts on 14 November 2017 is only the latest in a series of measures to try to silence her.

Ms. Ismayilova has been repeatedly targeted as a result of her exercising her freedom of speech and expression through her investigative journalism. The repression she has faced in the pursuit of this work stands in stark contrast to Azerbaijan’s international commitments in accordance with Articles 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Azerbaijan has ratified. Article 19 of the ICCPR guarantees that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.

We urge you to use your good offices to grant Khadija Ismayilova the permission to travel abroad, full access to her bank accounts and to lift the restrictions on her fundamental freedoms which are guaranteed to her by law. We also hope that you will take all necessary steps to ensure that Khadija’s, and all other journalists’ in Azerbaijan, rights to freedom of expression be respected.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Signed by:

  1. Alan Rusbridger, UK (RLA 2014)
  2. Alla Yaroshinskaya, Russia (RLA 1992)
  3. Alyn Ware, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, New Zealand – Aotearoa (RLA 2009)
  4. Amory Lovins, USA, (RLA 1983)
  5. Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, USA (RLA 2008)
  6. Andras Biro, Hungary, (RLA 1995)
  7. Angie Zelter, Trident Ploughshares, UK (RLA 2001)
  8. Anwar Fazal, Right Livelihood College, Malaysia (RLA 1982)
  9. Basil Fernando, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong (RLA 2014)
  10. Bianca Jagger, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Amnesty International USA, Nicaragua/United Kingdom, (RLA 2004)
  11. Bill McKibben,, USA (RLA 2014)
  12. Chico Whitaker Ferreira, Brazil (RLA 2006)
  13. Colin Gonsalves, Human Rights Law Network, India (RLA 2017)
  14. Denis Mukwege, Democratic Republic of Congo (RLA 2013)
  15. Dipal Barua, Bangladesh (RLA 2007)
  16. Edward Snowden, Freedom of the Press Foundation, USA (RLA 2014)
  17. Elena Zhemkova / Memorial International, Russia (RLA 2004)
  18. Erik Dammann, Future in Our Hands, Norway (RLA 1982)
  19. Fernando Rendon, Medellin International Poetry Festival, Colombia (RLA 2006)
  20. Frances Moore Lappé, Small Planet Institute, USA (RLA 1987)
  21. Gino Strada / EMERGENCY, Italy (RLA 2015)
  22. GRAIN, International (RLA 2011)
  23. Helen Mack Chang, Fundación Myrna Mack, Guatemala (RLA 1992)
  24. Herman E. Daly, USA (RLA 1996)
  25. Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism Solutions, USA (RLA 1983)
  26. IBFAN, the International Baby Food Action Network, Switzerland (RLA 1998)
  27. Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad (RLA 2011)
  28. János Vargha, Duana Kör, Hungary (RLA 1985)
  29. Johan Galtung, Norway (RLA 1987)
  30. Juan E. Garcés, Spain (RLA 1999)
  31. Juan Pablo Orrego S., Ecosistemas, Chile (RLA 1998)
  32. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Uganda (RLA 2015)
  33. Manfred Max-Neef, Economics Institute, Universidad Austral de Chile, Chile (RLA 1983)
  34. Martin Almada, Paraguay (RLA 2002)
  35. Martin A. Green, Australia (RLA 2002)
  36. Martín von Hildebrand, Fundación GAIA Amazonas, Colombia (RLA 1999)
  37. Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians, Canada (RLA 2005)
  38. Monika Hauser, Medica Mondiale, Germany (RLA 2008)
  39. Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria (RLA 2010)
  40. Pat Mooney, ETC Group, Canada (RLA 1985)
  41. Paul F. Walker, Green Cross International, USA (RLA 2013)
  42. P K Ravindran, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, India (RLA 1996)
  43. Raúl A. Montenegro, Fundación para la defensa del ambiente, Argentina (RLA 2004)
  44. René Ngongo, Democratic Republic of Congo (RLA 2009)
  45. Robert Bilott, USA (RLA 2017)
  46. Ruchama Marton, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Israel (RLA 2010)
  47. Sima Samar, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Afghanistan (RLA 2012)
  48. Shrikrishna Upadhyay, Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal, Nepal (RLA 2010)
  49. Stephen Corry[1], Director, Survival International, United Kingdom (RLA 1989)
  50. Sunchul Yun, Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, Republic of Korea (RLA 2003)
  51. Tapio Mattlar, Kylätoiminta / Finnish Village Action, Finland (RLA 1992)
  52. Theo van Boven, Netherlands (RLA 1985)
  53. Tony Clarke, Polaris Institute, Canada (RLA 2005)
  54. Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, Israel (RLA 2001)
  55. Wes Jackson, The Land Institute, USA (RLA 2000)
  56. Yetnebersh Nigussie, Ethiopia (RLA 2017)

[1] Signed in his personal capacity.