Media Freedom in Azerbaijan headlines the GFMD World Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia: Khadija Ismailova calls for international support for media freedom in Azerbaijan.

From September 20th-22nd 2016, the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) conducted its fourth World Forum for Media Development. The conference took place in Jakarta, Indonesia and hosted over 400 media development professionals, academics, business leaders, and journalists from 62 different countries. The organizing partners of the Forum were Universitas Multimedia Nusantara (UMN) and the Indonesian Press Council.

At the initiative of IREX Europe, the Forum was opened with an “Energizer Talk” by Khadija Ismailova, an Azerbaijani investigative journalist and the recipient of the 2016 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Ms. Ismailova is the author of numerous award-winning investigations that have uncovered high level corruption in Azerbaijan, including lucrative business deals of the Azerbaijani president’s family members, hidden interests of the president’s siblings in national contracts and mismanagement in the state financing sector. In 2014, her professional work resulted in her becoming a political prisoner in Azerbaijan. Although set free in late May 2016, Ms. Ismailova is still kept under the court’s control and cannot travel abroad. For this reason, she addressed the Forum participants via this video.

Speaking about and on behalf of Azerbaijani independent journalists, both those in prison and those free but working in repressive environment, Ms. Ismailova addressed the international community with an appeal to be “empathic and to speak up against repressions”. Those governments that are depriving their own citizens from products of democracy should be banned from using the products of democracy abroad. Sanction for sanction”, she concluded, saying that the Azerbaijani government will stop oppressing its own people only when it will face the price for this. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is not alone on the world map of unfree media, and the problems raised by Ms. Ismailova were echoed in many other presentations that followed during the intensive three-day programme of the conference. The Forum’s participants followed on GFMD’s success in putting access to information on the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda, where media are seen not as a tool, but as an ally in the cause: the media has a role in communicating issues in a way that the public can engage with. Looking at challenges and best practices of attaining access to information, media professionals were given a floor to discuss many essential aspects of media development: latest trends in investigative journalism, dealing with hate speech, propaganda, censorship, safeguarding journalists in high risk zones, technological challenges and opportunities, media literacy and many others. The full schedule for the 2016 Jakarta World Forum for Media Development, complete with session descriptions and speaker/ moderator biographies can be found here.

An important issue of the Forum‘s agenda was the election of the new Steering Committee and the Chairperson of the 200-member network of the Global Forum for Media Development. IREX Europe congratulates the newly elected Steering Committee and wishes the GFMD network all success in further strengethening the effectiveness and coordination of media assistance efforts.

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