Brave Thinkers 2012 November 2012

Khadija Ismayilova

Journalist

Ismayilova is one of the only investigative reporters in the oil-rich former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. For years she’s reported on corruption within the country’s autocratic ruling family, but this past March her investigation got personal.

Ismayilova had received a letter with threatening instructions: “Whore, behave. Or you will be defamed.” Included were intimate photos, taken inside her home by a hidden camera. A week later, a sex tape of her was released online. In Azerbaijan, where reporters are routinely beaten and harassed, and some are even killed, blackmail is a powerful weapon against dissent. In 2010, the sex tape of an opposition newspaper editor effectively ended his career. The ramifications for a woman in this conservative country could be even more severe.

But Ismayilova did not hide. Instead, she tracked the letter to a Moscow post office. She discovered curious wires inside her apartment and then found the phone-company worker hired to install them. Government officials dismissed these leads and instead released the names and addresses of Ismayilova’s friends whom they had questioned. Undeterred, Ismayilova has vowed to continue reporting for her nightly radio show. “If they meant to stop me by this, I can assure you they have been wrong,” Ismayilova has said. “They failed to do so.”

See all our 2012 Brave Thinkers.

Image credit: Georg Wendt/DPA/Corbis

Presented by

Amanda Erickson is an associate editor for The Atlantic Cities.

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis. The only problem? He has to prove it works.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.
More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In