Russian journalist 'threatened' after reporting police abuse

27th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Russian journalist said on Wednesday that she had been "threatened" after broadcasting reports on police lawlessness and human rights abuses in the troubled North Caucasus region of Dagestan.

"I receive calls and text messages that say 'We've had enough of you. We'll cut your tongue out, we'll shoot you'," said Zarema Gasanova, who works as reporter at a television channel in Dagestan.

Dagestan is one of the republics in Russia's restive Caucasus region, where an Islamist insurgency has taken scores of lives. The republic, which borders Chechnya, has reported attacks on a nearly daily basis.

Gasanova told AFP that the threats have intensified after she aired a report in December on two men who were shot by police in the town of Kuzilyurt.

"Their car was stopped for an identification check. The police argued that the two men opened fire and were wounded in the return of fire before dying on their way to the hospital," said Gasanova.

"But in fact, their bodies had signs of torture and their ears had been cut off," she said.

After Gasanova made numerous appeals to the police, who have said they are investigating the threats, she filed an official complaint on Tuesday to the local prosecutor.

Russian human rights NGO Memorial said it was following Gasanova's case.

"Not only do human rights activists and journalists undergo constant pressure, but they systematically become the objects of attacks," the organisation said in a statement.

Many journalists have been killed in Dagestan over the past several years.

In 2009, Malik Akhmedilov, an investigative journalist working for the "Khakikat" (Truth) newspaper in Dagestan was found shot dead in a village near the regional capital of Makhachkala.

Abdulla Alishayev, who covered religious issues for local television channel TV-Chirkey, was shot to dead in 2008.

In the same year, Gadzhi Abashilov, the head of GTRK Dagestan television channel, was shot dead in his car in Makhachkala. A reporter at Dagestani weekly Novoye Delo, Magomed-Zagid Varisov, died in a similar shooting in 2005.

© 2010 AFP

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