Journalist Babek Bekir of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service has been awarded that country's most prestigious journalism award.
In a ceremony in Baku, the U.S. State Department and the Elmar Huseynov Foundation presented Bekir with the Elmar Huseynov Award. The award is given to investigative journalists whose "bravery to tell the truth helps the cause of freedom."
Bekir recently produced a series of groundbreaking reports on the Azerbaijani drug trade.
The Elmar Huseynov Award is named after an Azeri journalist who was shot dead in front of his home in 2005. Huseynov's" Monitor" magazine was often critical of government corruption and published a number of investigative stories accusing Azerbaijan's top public officials of criminal activity. Huseynov's family believes the government is responsible for his death. Three years later, the murder remains unsolved.
Shahbaz Khuduoglu, co-founder of the Elmar Huseynov Foundation, urged other journalists in Azerbaijan to fill Huseynov's shoes.
"Someone realized that killing Huseynov was the only way to stop him," Khuduoglu said at the ceremony. "They can stop one man by killing him, but they will surely fail if they are to face dozens."