Investigating Azerbaijan

This week in class we discussed the dangers faced by journalists as they try to report in environments where surveillance is following their every move. In these situations, logistics are key: transportation, amenities, communication, and social media among other things all must be taken into account to avoid being found and losing the story. Additionally, we talked about how once a journalist is inside the country and talking to sources who may not have a true idea how much danger they could be in, the responsibility can shift from source to journalist in regards to protection from consequences or backlash. We concluded that since there are no rules or guidelines, a journalist’s actions in a surveillance state is essentially a personal judgement call, but one that cannot be taken lightly.


Leyla and Arzu, President Aliyev’s daughters.

One such example of investigative journalism can be found in my last post, written by award-winning (and also imprisoned) journalist Khadija Ismayilova. Khadija’s investigative journalism focuses in on the corruption surrounding President Aliyev’s family, and one especially poignant and revealing report details the ties between the family and two major telecommunication firms. By focusing in on official reports, documents, and financial data, Khadija provides a good backing for her findings. Essentially what she is arguing in her report is that the connections that Aliyev’s daughters have to Azercell could indicate that the government potentially has control over about three quarters of the country’s communications. This raises serious concerns over Internet and cell-phone security, as well as how much freedom citizens really have in regards to secret surveillance.

Although the finding’s of Khadija’s report are surprising in themselves, what is truly remarkable is that she provides the PDF’s, email conversations, and other primary documents used in her research. Not only does this increase her credibility and trust that readers can place in her, but it also allows those skeptical of her conclusions to go and do the research themselves and come to their own conclusions, whether they are the same or different from Khadija’s. Although some of the documents are not in English, I encourage you to check the report and the documents out!


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