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Azeri Reporter Wins Top Prize

(PRAGUE/BAKU) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Babek Bekir, who recently produced a series of groundbreaking reports on the Azerbaijani drug trade, is being honored today with 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, an honor handed out to investigative journalists whose “bravery to tell the truth helps the cause of freedom.”

“I congratulate Babek on this fine achievement and I’m humble and proud to lead an organization whose journalists are committed to the truth, despite the repressive regimes who seek to deny their people access to basic information,” says RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. “Babek literally risks his life every day by simply doing his job.”

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. Three years later, Huseynov’s murder remains unsolved.

During the award ceremony, Shahbaz Khuduoglu, co-founder of the Elmar Huseynov Foundation, said that more brave Azeri journalists such as RFE/RL’s Bekir need to step forward and report unbiased news. “Someone realized that killing Huseynov was the only way to stop him,” he said. “They can stop one man by killing him, but they will surely fail if they are to face dozens.”

RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service (Radio Azadliq) broadcasts are produced in Prague and the service’s Baku Bureau and transmitted to listeners via satellite and AM and FM signals provided by local affiliate stations. Azerbaijani Service programming is also available via the Internet, at the service’s website and at; English-language news about events in Azerbaijan can be found here on the RFE/RL website.