The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Azerbaijan to pay almost 17,000 euros to investigative reporter Khadija Ismayilova in connection with a blackmail campaign against her that included the online posting of a “sex video” filmed at her apartment without her knowledge.
The court’s January 10 ruling said that “it had not been possible to establish ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the State itself had been responsible for the very serious invasion of Ismayilova’s privacy.”
But the court ruled that Azerbaijan failed in its duty under the European Convention on Human Rights “to investigate acts which had been an affront to Ismayilova’s human dignity” and to protect her freedom of expression.
It ordered Azerbaijan to pay Ismayilova 15,000 euros ($17,300) for her pain and suffering and another 1,750 euros ($2,000) to cover her court costs and expenses, RFE/RL reports.
Ismayilova, a former contributor to the radio station, had been reporting extensively on alleged corruption by the family of Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in 2012 when she received a letter threatening to publicly humiliate her unless she stopped her investigative work.
The letter included still images from a video, shot using cameras hidden inside Ismayilova’s apartment, that showed her having sex with her then-boyfriend.
The video was released online after Ismayilova refused to stop her investigative reporting about corruption and, instead, announced publicly that she was being targeted by a blackmail campaign.
Ismayilova later found the hidden cameras in her apartment and special equipment installed to transmit the video outside of her apartment.
When Ismayilova complained about the ineffectiveness of Baku’s criminal investigation into the attempted blackmail, the authorities responded by releasing details from their probe that disclosed more information about her private life – including the full names and occupations of her friends, colleagues, and family along with her home address and the identity of the boyfriend in the video.
The European Court’s ruling on January 10 noted there was no material in the case file assembled by Azerbaijani authorities to show they had investigated the threatening letter.
“Another immediate investigative step could also have been to identify the owners and/or operators of the two websites used to post the videos online and to determine the source of the videos and the identify of their uploaders,” the court said.
“Most importantly, no line of inquiry was developed to see if there had been a link between the fact that Ismayilova was a well-known investigative journalist highly critical of the government and the series of criminal acts committed against her,” it added.
“No progress had been made in the investigation after August 2013,” said the court, which also noted numerous other reports of “journalists in Azerbaijan being persecuted and the perceived climate of impunity for such acts.”