Khadija Ismayilova hosted a popular program on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani service and worked as a senior investigator with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project covering the corruption of Azerbaijan's ruling family before she was arrested in December 2014.
In September 2015, she was sentenced to seven years in prison but through her relentless determination and vocal campaigns by her fellow journalists and human rights activists she was set free after a successful appeal to Azerbaijan's Supreme Court in May 2016, just two days before her 40th birthday.
Khadija has done extensive reporting on corruption and malfeasance in the country’s government and has written numerous stories detailing the unethical business dealings of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s family and friends.
Previous attempts to silence her included an episode where a video camera was hidden in her bedroom which recorded her in intimate moments with her boyfriend; when she refused to be silenced, the videos were released in the spring of 2012.
In 2012 she received both the German ZEIT Foundation award and the International Women’s Media Federation’s Courage Award; in 2013, she added to those the Global Shining Light Award. In 2015 she has been honored by the PEN America Press Freedom Award, the ZEIT Foundation, the Swedish Press Club, and the National Press Club in America.
She was named the recipient of the 2016 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
Khadija is currently under a travel ban and cannot leave Azerbaijan. She will therefore participate in the festival via Skype.