Azerbaijan: Investigative Reporter Investigates Crime against Her
Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has taken on an investigation of her own into the filming of a sexually explicit video posted online in an attempt to blackmail her into dropping her reporting on a business deal possibly involving senior government officials.
At an April 4 press conference in Baku, Ismayilova described how, together with several fellow journalists, she revisited the apartment where she had been secretly filmed in her bedroom in an intimate relationship for clues to how the video had been made. During several visits to the apartment, the team found a hidden network of wires leading to an outside telephone box.
The findings were shared with investigators, who declined to summon a telephone company expert to pinpoint where the wires led, the team reported. Instead, Ismayilova said she contacted the telephone company to provide a technician to examine the box and wires. The technician, who spoke with investigators' approval, told the team that he had been ordered by the company in July 2011 to connect the phone box to Ismayilova's apartment.
The wires have since been removed, but the technician's testimony not entered into the official evidence.
Ismayilova, her lawyers and associates say that the evidence they collected offered valuable clues for the official investigation, but that police have failed to document or act on it. No official response has yet been released.
The official investigation targets the video as a violation of the right to privacy, rather than as a crime against a journalist, as requested by Ismayilova. In a joint release, the team maintains that the response to their findings indicates that the “[P]rosecutor’s Office fails to act as an independent investigative body."
The incident has sparked an international outpouring of support for Ismayilova, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty radio talk show host as well as a longtime reporter for EurasiaNet.org. Ismayilova maintains that she will not be deterred by the video, but says that she now has to live “with the feeling that someone was watching” her, and “may be watching now.” This post was updated on April 5, 2012 to correct the date on which the telephone technician allegedly received the order to connect the phone box to Khadija Ismayilova's apartment.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.