IWPR reporter Idrak Abbasov has been shortlisted for a prestigious prize for his work as a journalist in Azerbaijan.
The journalist was nominated in the Index on Censorship 2012 awards for his bravery in reporting on human rights in the face of intimidation.
Index on Censorship noted one incident last September, in which Abbasov’s parents and brother were injured when uniformed men entered the family home and partially destroyed it with a bulldozer. (For details, see Azerbaijani Journalist Under Pressure.)
Abbasov, who reports for the Ayna and Zerkalo newspapers as well as working as an IWPR trainer and journalist, is one of the founding members of the Azerbaijanis Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety.
He has already won several prizes for his work, including the Media Key award in 2007. In 2010, he was runner-up in a war reporting contest run by IWPR and the Georgian defence ministry.
“Idrak has regularly faced pressure from the authorities in Azerbaijan,” said Shahin Rzayev, IWPR country director for Azerbaijan. “In May 2001, for example, when covering an opposition protest, he was struck round the head with a police truncheon and spent a month in hospital. In October 2005, while covering another opposition demonstration, he was badly beaten by plainclothes police, only regaining consciousness after two months of treatment. In February 2009, while working in the Nakhichevan region, he was abducted by masked men and taken to a basement in the National Security Ministry building, where he was accused of spying for Armenia. Their ‘evidence’ was taken from his email inbox containing messages he had sent to Armenian colleagues while working as part of IWPR’s Cross Caucasus Journalism Network.”
Abbasov credits his IWPR training as a significant factor in his development as a journalist, Rzayev said, adding, “I hope his inclusion on the shortlist for this prestigious prize will contribute to developing freedom of speech and improving journalism in Azerbaijan.”
Rzayev recalled Abbasov’s early days as a journalist.
“When I was working as editor-in-chief of the Baku paper Impulse, I noticed this young lad who was distributing our paper. I asked him to write something for our youth pages in his free time, and within a very short space of time, his work was so good it had landed him a staff job and a reputation as one of the best reporters in the country.”