Top journalist murdered in Russia's Dagestan: official

16th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A gunman in Russia's troubled Caucasus region of Dagestan shot dead a leading journalist who founded a newspaper known for fearless criticism of the local authorities, officials said Friday.

Khadzhimurad Kamalov, the founder of the Dagestan weekly newspaper Chernovik and the director of its publisher Svoboda Slova (Freedom of Speech), was riddled with bullets in the main city Makhachkala, investigators said.

A gunman shot him dead with a pistol as he was coming out of the offices of the publisher at around midnight, the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement.

"The victim died on the way to hospital from multiple gunshot wounds," it said, adding a criminal case had been opened into murder.

Kamalov was the founder of Chernovik, which has been published since 2003 and won a reputation for its bold criticism of the local authorities.

The journalist had become known in particular for his criticism of the Dagestan interior ministry and had carried out investigations of unsolved "disappearances" of people blamed on criminal groups.

"It cannot be excluded that Kalamov was killed because of his work," the Investigative Committee said.

ITAR-TASS said the newspaper had repeatedly been the target of legal proceedings by the authorities and at one point every single printing press in Dagestan refused to print it.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described his murder as a "lethal blow to press freedom"

"The assassination is a massive loss for independent journalism in the North Caucasus, Russia's most dangerous place for reporters," its Europe and Central Asia coordinator Nina Ognianova said.

It said the newspaper's journalists had in the past been "routinely persecuted for their work" and said the paper was known for exposing corruption in the Dagestan administration.

His murder follows the killing earlier this year in Makhachkala of Maksud Sadikov, leading university professor in Dagestan who criticised radical Islamists.

Dagestan, a Muslim Caspian Sea region known for its ancient culture and tapestry of ethnic groups, endures regular attacks officials blame on militants seeking to establish an Islamic state across the Russian Caucasus.

© 2011 AFP

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