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Dagestan reporter could be killed for his professional activity

December 16, 2011, 9:12 UTC+3
The last high-profile legal action against the publication ended with acquittal of the newspaper’s staff whose members were accused of extremism
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MAKHACHKALA, December 16 (Itar-Tass) — The murder of Khadzhimurad Kamalov, 46, a well-known Dagestani journalist, director general of the Freedom of Speech company, founder and organiser of the Chernovik social political weekly is being investigated in the republic.

An official of the Dagestan Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee (SK) told Itar-Tass that a “criminal case has been opened under the RF Criminal Code articles “murder” and “illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition.” “One of the main versions of the crime is the journalist’s professional activities.”

Kamalov was killed in Makhachkala at about 23:30, Moscow time, Thursday, in Magomed Gadzhiyev Street, not far from the office of the newspaper where another issue of the weekly was being prepared for publication. He came out from the office to see off his friend when shots were fired at him. The wounded journalist was rushed to a hospital in a car, but he died on the way.

Khadzhimurad Kamalov was the author of numerous articles that criticized actions of the authorities, as well as the leadership of Ministry of Internal Affairs of Dagestan. In particular, he was conducting journalist investigations into the disappearance of people in the republic.

In September 2009, Kamalov was put on the so-called “death lists,” distributed in leaflets, anonymous authors of which threatened to persistently “destroy bandits and take revenge for the police officers and civilians.”

The newspaper’s editorial office since 2003 has repeatedly been under legal proceedings, there have been attempts at closing it. There was a period when not a single printing house of Dagestan agreed to print Chernovik, and its staff had to publish it in the neighbouring regions in the North Caucasus.

The last high-profile legal action against the publication ended with acquittal of the newspaper’s staff whose members were accused of extremism.

Chernovik weekly has been described by Reporters Without Borders as “Dagestan’s leading independent newspaper.” From 2008 to 2011, following a series of articles critical of the Federal Security Service’s counterinsurgency tactics, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Nadira Isayeva, was involved in a high-profile prosecution for “inciting hatred toward law enforcement officials” and other charges. Chernovik reporters Magomed Magomedov, Artur Mamayev and Timur Mustafayev were also charged, along with their lawyer Biyakai Magomedov. International press freedom organisations ARTICLE 19, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists all protested the charges, the latter awarding Isayeva a 2010 International Press Freedom Award for risking her “freedom and security” for her reporting. All five were later acquitted following a trial Isayeva described as “a test for the institution of press freedom” in Dagestan.

 

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