US Opinion and Commentary

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Azerbaijan Imprisoned Me. Pharrell Williams and Others Should Stop Helping My Jailers

Posted June 20th, 2016 at 11:03 am (UTC-4)
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This weekend, the Formula 1 European Grand Prix will run through the beautiful streets of Old Baku…Pharrell Williams, Chris Brown and Enrique Iglesias were slated to entertain race fans, helping to promote the ruling Aliyev family’s projection of my country as a happy, normal nation. But Azerbaijan is a country that runs on corruption.

Freedom of the Press

Posted May 3rd, 2016 at 2:04 pm (UTC-4)
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Freedom of the press is one of the foundation rights of the American people; the first of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It wasn’t until 1993, 202 years after the Bill of Rights was ratified, that the United Nations declared that access to information is a fundamental right of everyone. Ensuring the fundamental right to information is a continuing battle. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 10 journalists have been killed so far this year. 199 journalists were imprisoned for their work in 2015. Amnesty International highlights nine journalists who have been jailed or killed for doing their jobs. Reporters Without Borders has launched a “Great Year for Censorship” campaign to focus attention on the world’s most repressive regimes for press freedom. Freedom House says press freedom is at its lowest point in 12 years, with 46 percent of the world’s population living in countries whose media is not free. Today in Bangkok, after a reporter shouted “Freedom of the press is freedom of the people,” Thailand’s Prime Minister turned, pointed at the reporter and said “Watch yourself.”

“We Are Appalled…”

Posted September 4th, 2015 at 12:57 pm (UTC-4)
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Another blow to press freedom was leveled this week when Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison by a court in Baku. She was found guilty of criminal libel, tax evasion, illegal business activity and abuse of power. Most observers say she was guilty of doing her job. Ismayilova’s reporting for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty exposed corruption by Azerbaijani Presidennt Ilham Aliyev and his family. Jeff Shell, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees RFERL and Voice of America, denounced the Azerbaijani government for demonstrating “to the international community that it disdains press freedom, supports its own impunity and has little regard for human rights.” The State Department said it was “deeply troubled” by the sentencing and urged Azerbaijan to release Ismayilova and other incarcerated journalists.


Posted September 4th, 2015 at 12:15 pm (UTC-4)
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Throughout September, the U.S. State Department will profile 20 women who are political prisoners. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, kicked off the month-long campaign on Tuesday by highlighting the plight of Wang Yu of China.

Letter from Azerbaijani Jail: Khadija Ismayilova Speaks Out

Posted June 12th, 2015 at 9:21 am (UTC-4)
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The eyes of the world are on my country, my beloved Azerbaijan, as it hosts the inaugural European Games, beginning on Friday … But I will not see the games … I am sitting in my cell in the Kurdakhani prison — my home for the past six months.

Should We Draw the Line on Political Cartooning?

Posted May 8th, 2015 at 12:28 pm (UTC-4)
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The PEN America Center’s decision to give the 2015 Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, sparked protest and heated debate — and nearly overshadowed another PEN award recipient, jailed Azeribaijan journalist Khadija Ismayilova, on whose behalf PEN commissioned a series of cartoons.