The 2009 Rafto Prize was awarded to journalist and human rights activist Malahat Nasibova (1969). Nasibova was awarded the prize for her courageous and unwavering struggle for a free and independent press. Risking her own safety, she reports on abuse of power, human rights violations and corruption in the isolated autonomous republic Nakhchivan, which is part of Azerbaijan.
'This prize is for human rights, for democracy and for free media - values that we must fight for in Azerbaijan and values that all people deserve'.
Malahat Nasibova is a correspondent for the independent information bureau, 'Turan' in Azerbaijan and for 'Radio Free Europe'/'Radio Liberty'. She is the leader of the human rights organisation 'Democracy and NGO's Development Resource Center' in Nakhchivan.
Nasibova has been a critical voice against the authorities for ten years and she steadfastly refuses to give up the fight for freedom of speech. She reports on violations by the police against ordinary citizens, kidnapping of members of the opposition, and attacks on journalists. In the absence of other independent institutions, Nasibova has become a kind of ombudsperson to whom the local population turn, in order to be heard.
By giving the 2009 Rafto prize to Malahat Nasibova the Rafto Foundation wished to give prominence to an inflexible champion of free speech and a free press and at the same time to draw attention to a member of the Council of Europe which increasingly fails to meet its democratic and human rights obligations towards its own citizens and the international society.
In 2014, Malahat and her husband Ilgar Nasibov suffered gross physical abuse at the hands of thugs suspected to have acted on the orders of employers protected by the local regime in Nakhchivan. This was followed by legal harassment and an attack on Ilgar who was severely beaten. With the assistance of activists in the network of the Rafto Foundation, they were given emergency care in Turkey. Upon return to Nakhchivan, the couple was placed under surveillance, and after several months in isolation, the couple managed to escape to Baku, and then across the border to Georgia. They now have political asylum in Norway.