Honoring Another Murdered Colleague

A Russian journalist who spent his career uncovering corruption was murdered on Thursday, a day devoted to honoring the country’s slain reporters.  He was shot 14 times late in the night as he was leaving his office.

Hadzhimurad Kamalov founded Chernovik, a newspaper in the restive Russian province of Dagestan in the north Caucasus that was known for its independent coverage of government affairs, including corruption rampant in the region.

Kamalov also served as executive director for Svoboda Slova, a foundation advocating for independent press.

Human rights groups have linked his murder to his work

“This disgusting crime was committed exactly at the end of the Memorial Day, when journalist organizations all over Russia gave tribute to colleagues who perished due to their work in the last 20 years,” said Galina Sidorova, chair of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism in Russia and vice-chair of the executive board of the International Press Institute (IPI).

She stressed that the situation for journalists committed to exposing corruption is dangerous.

Dagestan, is one of Russia’s most diverse regions, with less than 5 percent of the population representing ethnic Russians.  Human rights experts also consider it one of the most corrupt.  Kamalov wrote at length about the province’s struggles with a growing Islamist population, and the scrutiny and abuse Russian police have subjected them to.

Kamalov is the second journalist from Dagestan to be murdered this year.  Yakhya Magomedov, who worked for the Russian Islamic newspaper As-Salam, died May 8 when he was shot four times leaving his home.

IPI has recorded 40 journalist deaths since 2000.  While the number of journalists killed in 2011 is lower than preceding years, trends continue to be worrying, and most of the assassins are not prosecuted.

. “We urge authorities both federal and Dagestan to pursue an investigation so that all those involved in this brutal crime are caught, brought to justice and punished,” said Sidorova. “Unfortunately, so far this has never happened here when journalists are killed because of their work.”

This is a matter all journalists across the continent must take notice of.  With protests building in Russia’s major cities and presidential elections looming in March, accurate, unbiased, and thorough reporting is of paramount importance.  Voters may not be keen on electing former president Vladimir Putin, but they need to have credible information on his opponents. And if he and other members of the United Russia are to be re-elected, it should be because voters had the chance to read and analyze objective information.