Russia: Journalist murdered in North Caucasus
10 Dec 2012
ARTICLE 19 condemns the murder of Kazbek Gekkiyev, a news presenter, who was shot dead in Nalchik, capital of the Republic Kabardino-Balkariya. ARTICLE 19 calls upon the authorities to ensure that those responsible are held to account for his murder.
ARTICLE 19 also calls for an urgent independent investigation into ongoing threats against journalists in the region is also needed. Gekkiyev’s murder comes after the announcement of ‘death list’ on a Dagestani website, in which journalists are highlighted as potential targets by a rebel group.
”We express our sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Kazbek Gekkiyev. His murder once again highlights the shocking level of violence against journalists in North Caucasus region. The region has seen the highest number of killings of journalists in Russia in recent years but the authorities have yet to succeed in bringing any perpetrators or masterminds to justice,” said Dr Agnes Callmard, Executive Director at ARTICLE 19.
“In an environment where threats to journalists are a regular feature, the authorities must step up their game. Their failure to do so allows for those who want to kill, to do so freely, whilst journalists’ vulnerability to attacks increases with the number of unresolved threats, attacks and murder cases of journalists,” she stated.
News presenter Kazbek Gekkiyev, 28, was fatally shot as he left work on the evening of 5 December in Nalchik. The authorities have suggested Gekkiyev’s murder could be connected to his work and should be considered as a threat to other journalists, in particular those report on armed groups in the region. His colleagues at the state-run All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) stated that two other journalists working for the television channel had previously received death threats over their coverage of killings of Islamists in the region and had subsequently been taken off air for their own safety.
Threats against journalists continue to appear on the internet. It was reported that last week a Dagestani web-site posted a ‘warning for journalists’ by an armed group. Under the name of the leadership of ‘Imarat Kavkaz’ journalists in Dagestan are accused of distorting facts and unbalanced reporting on the activities of armed Islamist groups in the region, and warns that journalists should now be seen as ‘people at risk’.
Whilst welcoming President Putin’s public comments calling for the perpetrators of Kazbek’s murder to be brought to justice, ARTICLE 19 urges the Russian authorities without delay to implement the recommendations in the latest Joint Declaration of the four special mandates for protecting freedom of expression. In particular:
- Investigations should lead to the identification and prosecution of all of those responsible for crimes against freedom of expression, including direct perpetrators and instigators, as well as those who conspire to commit, aid and abet, or cover up such crimes
- Investigations should be conducted in a transparent manner, subject to the need to avoid prejudice to the investigation.
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