Media Defence Logo


Azeri journalist seeks justice at ECHR

Azeri journalist seeks justice at ECHR


Internationally renowned journalist Khadija Ismayilova has complained to the European Court of Human Rights about the unwillingness of the Azeri authorities to properly investigate a series of threats, intimidations and gross violations of her privacy designed to force her to stop her journalistic work.

Over nearly a decade of journalism, Ms Ismayilova, recipient of the 2012 Courage in Journalism Award, has published numerous reports on government corruption and has become internationally known for her pro-democracy stance. In 2010, she started reporting on corrupt practices involving the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev (recently named “most corrupt person of the year” by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project) and members of his family. Soon after, she started receiving threats.

When Ms Ismayilova complained to the authorities, videos containing private footage from her apartment’s bedroom, obtained through hidden cameras that had been secretly installed in her house, were published on the internet and were widely referenced in government-loyal media.

Despite countless attempts to bring about a criminal investigation into this gross violation of her right to privacy, the Azeri authorities have showed no intention to effectively investigate the case. Ms Ismayilova has sought relief with the national courts through a number of proceedings but found no effective redress. She has been left with nothing but ongoing threats, reputational damage, a great sense of unsafety and continued risk of (physical) harm, which has also strengthened the public sense of impunity for attacks on journalists.

Because of the authorities’ failure to act, it has become more and more difficult for Ms Ismayilova and other independent journalists to fulfil their function as a watchdog.

Ms Ismayilova has petitioned the European Court of Human Rights to declare that the government of Azerbaijan has violated her rights to freedom of expression, privacy and access to justice, and to order the government of Azerbaijan to compensate her for the violation of her rights.

Ms Ismayilova is represented by the Media Rights Institute, MLDI’s Legal Director Nani Jansen and Douwe Groenevelt and Lara Talsma of international law firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek.

Recent News

The “Misuse” of the judicial system to attack freedom of expression

UNESCO has released a new report on “The “misuse” of the judicial system to attack freedom of expression”. The report takes an in-depth look at the patterns and challenges surrounding the rise of abusive litigation, and makes a number of recommendations. To mark its release, we explore our own experience tackling legal threats to freedom […]


Russian disinformation: a weapon in its war on Ukraine

Lawmakers, academics and citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the threat posed by disinformation and malinformation. ‘Disinformation’ refers to falsehoods spread deliberately to stoke distrust or promote an agenda. It is a widespread issue, overshadowing elections everywhere from Brazil to the USA, fuelling hate speech, such as in India, and impacting stock prices around the […]


TOHAV & The Fight for Freedom of Expression in Turkey – by Esma Yasar

This article was written by Esma Yasar, a Kurdish lawyer working for Media Defence’s partner organisation TOHAV. Esma Yasar took part in Media Defence’s fellowship programme, which hosts human rights lawyers from our funded partner organisations all over the world. Freedom of Expression and Press Freedom in Turkey Turkey is one of the most restrictive […]