UN Experts Urge Azerbaijan To End Travel Ban On Award-Winning Ismayilova

Two UN human rights experts are urging Azerbaijan to lift its travel ban on investigative journalist and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova in order to strengthen media freedom in the country.

David Kaye and Michel Forst, UN Human Rights Council special rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression and the situation of human rights defenders, respectively, said in a December 5 statement, “The measures against 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.”

Ismayilova was invited to speak at a seminar and to receive an award for her investigative work on December 1 but was unable to attend because of a five-year travel ban placed on her in 2016.

“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,” Kaye and Forst said.

“The ban stifles her right to freedom of expression as it is aimed at preventing her from traveling abroad to speak about human rights issues," they said. "We urge the authorities to lift it and to ensure that journalism is not being restricted under false pretenses.”

Ismayilova -- who has unsuccessfully challenged the travel ban in court -- has also been invited to an event at the Graduate Institute of Geneva on December 6.

After spending nearly 18 months in jail on charges widely viewed as retaliation for her investigative work, Ismayilova was released in May 2016.

Kaye and Forst also criticized a November 14 court decision that froze Ismayilova’s bank account and prevents her from receiving award money, which they said hinders her work as a journalist.