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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Communications / RFE/RL In The News

'Open Mic: A Popular Radio Host Tests Press Restrictions In Azerbaijan' -- Khadija Ismayilova Profiled By CJR

Columbia Journalism Review profiles Khadija Ismayilova of RFE's Azerbaijani Service.

Excerpted below:

March / April 2011

Open Mic:

A popular radio host tests press restrictions in Azerbaijan

By Amanda Erikson

Khadija Ismayilova commands an audience. It’s the first thing you notice about her, in a country ruled overwhelmingly by men, whether you are in her office or on the other end of her nightly broadcast.

In Azerbaijan, although the press is nominally free, reporters are routinely harassed, beaten, jailed, and even murdered. But Ismayilova is on the air two hours a day, five days a week, demanding that government officials, opposition leaders, and other public figures acknowledge their mistakes and explain themselves. For her, no topic is off-limits and every issue is fodder for debate. During one recent show, she held forth on Azerbaijan’s economy, quizzing two guests on why the country ranked so poorly in the Heritage Foundation’s recently released Index of Economic Freedom. Then, she moved on to the rather heady question of whether Azerbaijan—a small, former Soviet state nestled between Russia, Iran, and the Caspian Sea—has any sort of ideology.

As she spoke, Ismayilova’s three male producers fiddled with dials, screened calls, and read the texts and e-mails that were pouring in. Whenever there was something worth reading on the air, they sent her an instant message. One caller complained that the nine members of his family were living in a two-bedroom apartment while the country’s ruling class got rich off of oil money. Another argued that Azerbaijan’s ideology is set only by the president.

Ismayilova draws an audience of more than 10,000 listeners each day, in a country of roughly 9 million. While many journalists censor themselves, Ismayilova is famous for her dogged, devil’s advocate approach to questioning her guests. When members of Azerbaijan’s opposition party come on to her show, they ask her to bring on a representative from New Azerbaijan, the country’s ruling party. “They say I’m much tougher to take on than the ruling party,” she said with a laugh.

“I’m mean to everyone,” she continued. “That’s the way I like my show.”


To read the full article, please visit Columbia Journalism Review online at

Tags: Azerbaijan,columbia journalism review,khadija ismayilova,radio azadliq

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ginge from: UK
June 15, 2011 11:09
What a stupid article! Badly researched and self contradictory! Erikson's article tries to stress that the press is supressed but then goes on to prove that it is not! She also says the country is ruled by men but actually there are more women in power as MPs etc than in most countries! If she must write negatively biased articles try getting the facts right!! Better still, try to forget the blinkered, negative approach!
In Response

by: Arzu from: Baki
June 18, 2011 15:32
GINGE: No contradiction here. I don't think you have spent much time in Azerbaijan. The article is emphasizing that the radio host stands out from the norm. Also, keep in mind that Radio Free Europe was banned from the FM airwaves two years ago. Khadija is pushing back against the resistance to sensor her thoughts and to shut down her now online radio show.

And If you are claiming that Azerbaijan is a proud supporter of woman's rights than you haven't been to Azerbaijan.

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