Independent journalist murdered in Dagestan

Close to midnight on December 15th the founder of the independent newspaper Chernovik, Gadzhimurad Kamalov stepped out of the office in the Dagestan capital Makhachkala when a masked gunman opened fire. According to police reports 14 shots were fired and Kamalov died on the way to the hospital.

The murder of Gadzhimurad Kamalovs represents yet another serious blow to independent journalism and freedom of speech in the violent republic of Dagestan. Chernovik was founded in 2003 and its reputation and circulation has grown. It has become known for its editorial independence, investigative reporting, and special focus on sensitive topics such as corruption and human rights abuses by law enforcement and security agencies. The paper’s journalists have become used to harassment and threats.

The murder of Gadzhimurad Kamalov should also be seen in light of a pattern of increased violence and threats towards human rights defenders and journalists. Dagestan is today the most violent republic in the North Caucasus. During the last years militant Islamic insurgents have become particularly active in Dagestan. In March 2010, two suicide bombers from Dagestan attacked the Moscow metro, killing 40 people and wounding dozens. In response the authorities have continued to commit serious violations of human rights such as torture, force disappearances and extrajudicial killings against persons who are suspected of being connected to the insurgents.

In September 2009, leaflets with death threats towards journalists and human rights defenders, including Kamalov, appeared in Makhachkala. Human rights defenders who monitor and report on human rights violations faces constant and daily danger. During 2010 two prominent lawyers were seriously beaten in Makhachkala. One of them, Sapiat Magomedova, who had lodged several cases with the European Court of Human Rights, was assaulted while trying to visit a client at a police station. As in other parts of the North Caucasus the local governments promise much but delivers very little. Perpetrators of human rights abuses are often well known but remain at large, and impunity prevails. The federal government in Moscow has several times promised to increase security and improve human rights in the republic. As long as there are no proper investigations into the crime against Gadzhimurad Kamalov and other human rights defenders these promises ring hollow.

In 2009 Civil Rights Defenders started the Stockholm Process to increase awareness among decision makers about the continuing human rights violations in the North Caucasus, and to empower the brave human rights defenders in the region who are under constant pressure because of the work that they do. Every year, we organise a conference for a large group of human rights defenders from the North Caucasus. During a couple of days we discuss the human rights situation in the region, their own security, and joint strategies to reach out to decision makers in Europe.

See the video from Civil Rights Defender’s seminar “Dagestan – Russia’s New Hot Spot” http://bambuser.com/node/1236034 (Please note: search the seminar via its title in the list of videos)

Categories: News.
Tags: Freedom of expression, Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, Violence against human rights defenders, and Violence against journalists.
Regions: Russia and The North Caucasus.