Russia: 'shocking' murder of journalist in Dagestan must be properly investigated
The shocking murder of a journalist shot dead in the Russian republic of Dagestan last night is a terrible sign of the risks journalists in Dagestan face, Amnesty International said today.
Khadzhimurad Kamalov, 46, founder and editor of the newspaper “Chernovik” and an outspoken advocate of human rights, was shot outside his office in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital.
Investigation officials in Dagestan today said the murder might be linked to his professional work. In 2009 Kamalov’s name appeared on an anonymously circulated “death list”, claiming that Kamalov associated with those responsible for the death of law enforcement officials in Dagestan.
“Chernovik”, which was founded by Kamalov in 2003, is known for its incisive, critical reporting on the political situation in Dagestan and for a strong advocacy of dialogue between ethnic and religious communities in Dagestan. The weekly newspaper is well-known for its forthright investigation and reporting on human rights violations by law enforcement bodies and armed groups. It also covers corruption, poverty and inequality in the volatile North Caucasus republic.
Journalists at “Chernovik” have faced systematic threats and harassment for their work. Staff faced criminal proceedings for purportedly “inciting hatred and enmity” after publishing critical articles on the police and security forces in 2008. The case was closed in May 2011 with the acquittal of the journalists in court.
Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director John Dalhuisen said:
“The Russian federal and regional authorities must promptly and impartially investigate this sad and shocking murder of a courageous journalist who appears, like many others before him, to have been targeted for his work.
“This latest killing of a courageous and principled journalist sends a chilling message to other reporters and government critics.
“The authorities must take effective measures to uphold the right to freedom of speech in Dagestan and especially to protect journalists, for whom the situation has become dire.”
Dagestan is one of the most dangerous places in the region to be a journalist. Another journalist from “Chernovik”, Magomed Hanmagomedov, was threatened by law enforcement officials after he published articles in 2010 about alleged police killings of unarmed suspected fighters, and also beaten by unknown assailants in May 2011.
Ali Kamalov, a relative of Khadzhimurad and the Chairman of the Union of Journalists in Dagestan, told Amnesty that violence and threats have become commonplace for journalists in Dagestan. At least six of his colleagues have been killed in the past two years.