13:47, October 10 232 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-10 13:47:02
The Unesco chief and my release from prison in Azerbaijan

In her letter to the Guardian (2 October) Irina Bokova, director general of Unesco, says she criticised my imprisonment by the Azerbaijan authorities, called for my release and supported me being awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom prize. I was shocked by the fact that she used my case in order to illustrate her dedication to the idea of freedom of speech.

In September 2014 – just before my arrest – Ms Bokova received a letter from a number of NGOs regarding the ongoing crackdown on independent media in Azerbaijan. The letter was quite detailed, naming nine journalists and two bloggers held in the prison at that time. Four of them remain in jail. The problem hasn’t stopped and the government continues to shut down media and arrest journalists on false pretences.

The NGOs say they have had no response. I am not aware of Ms Bokova ever having spoken about the letter publicly. She certainly didn’t on the occasions when she spoke out to praise our president, Ilham Aliyev. There is certainly nothing about it on Unesco’s website.

As for my press award, I have studied the awardee selection procedure and, assuming that the rules were followed, I am absolutely positive that Ms Bokova would not have played any role during the nomination or selection of my prize. An independent jury selects the awardee and the director general only confirms it.

Khadija Ismayilova

Baku, Azerbaijan