Saturday, December 17, 2011

Russia: Journalist and human rights activist killed in Dagestan

Source: IFEX

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 16 December 2011 – Influential journalist and human rights activist Hadzhimurad Kamalov was brutally gunned down in Russia on Thursday - a day dedicated to the commemoration of the assassination of journalists in the country.

Kamalov was the founder of Chernovik, an independent local newspaper in Dagestan. The newspaper is well known for reporting on government corruption. He was also the executive director of an organisation called Svoboda Slova (Freedom of Expression). Hadzhimurad Kamalov was killed as he left the newspaper’s office late on Thursday night. According to official investigations, the murder is linked to his work.

Galina Sidorova, the chair of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism in Russia, and the vice-chair of the Executive Board of IPI, said: “The killers shot him 14 times. This disgusting crime was committed exactly at the end of the Memorial Day, when journalist organisations all over Russia gave tribute to colleagues who perished due to their work in the last 20 years.” Unfortunately Russia remains just as dangerous today, she went on to say: “He is the fourth journalist killed in Russia since the beginning of 2011. And that confirms the disgraceful status of Russia as a territory dangerous for journalists.”

The murder of Kamalov is a real blow to independent journalism in the region of Dagestan, which is one of the largest and most diverse regions in Russia. Kamalov’s newspaper reported extensively on issues such as the abuse and heavy-handed tactics of the police against the Islamist insurgency. Human rights activists regard the security forces with suspicion. The North Caucasus provinces, especially Dagestan, have been plagued by problems of poverty and corruption. This region, in particular, is dangerous for journalists. IPI previously reported on Yakhya Magomedov, who worked for the Russian Islamic newspaper As-Salam and was shot four times and killed on 8 May in Dagestan.

Impunity is a serious issue in Russia. Sidorova noted: “We urge authorities both federal and Dagestan to pursue the investigation so that all those involved in this brutal crime are caught, brought to justice and punished. Unfortunately, so far this has never happened here when journalists are killed because of their work.”

According to the IPI Death Watch, 40 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000. In the majority of these cases, investigations have not led to the prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes, which have greatly undermined independent journalism in Russia.

With the current protests and upcoming presidential elections in Russia, press freedom and the work of journalists are even more important. IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: “The culture of impunity in Russia must end. This tragic case highlights just how grave the situation is for journalists working in Russia. We demand that the authorities investigate the tragic murder of Hadzhimurad Kamalov and bring the perpetrators to justice. Our thoughts are with Hadzhimurad Kamalov’s family and friends.”