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Free expression activist gunned down on Memorial Day for slain journalists

Journalist Hadzhimurad Kamalov at an opposition protest in Makhachkala, Dagestan, in August 2008
Journalist Hadzhimurad Kamalov at an opposition protest in Makhachkala, Dagestan, in August 2008

REUTERS/Lekai Dmitri

On 15 December - a day to commemorate assassinated journalists in Russia - a newspaper publisher and free expression activist was shot 14 times by a masked gunman, report the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF), the International Press Institute (IPI), Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and ARTICLE 19.

In addition to being the executive director of an organisation called Svoboda Slova which promotes free expression, Hadzhimurad Kamalov founded "Chernovik," a local newspaper in Dagestan known for its muckraking reporting on local corruption and the heavy handed military operation against the Islamist insurgency. "Chernovik" is one of the few independent publications in Dagestan.

IPI notes that Kamalov's murder is the second as-yet-unsolved murder this year in the corruption and poverty-plagued province of Dagestan. Kamalov is the fourth journalist killed in 2011 in Russia, where impunity is the order of the day for the well-connected government and military elites alleged to be involved in the murders of media personnel.

Indeed, one case that still goes unsolved is the beating of business journalist Oleg Kashin, who sustained more than 50 blows to his head and body and spent two weeks in a medically induced coma. Kamalov's murder occurred on the one-year anniversary of the attack on Kashin and, despite compelling evidence suggesting the involvement of politicians close to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, none of his assailants have been identified and the investigation has been purposefully stalled.

Watch "Give Kashin an Answer", a CJES video on the importance of prevention and protection in combating impunity, below:

Kamalov and many other "Chernovik" staff members were routinely threatened by the police and authorities, according to ARTICLE 19.

Leaflets anonymously distributed in Makhachkala city in 2009 called for the "extermination" of Kamalov, along with four other activists and four lawyers.

In addition, former "Chernovik" chief editor Nadira Isaeva, the recipient of a 2010 CPJ International Press Freedom Award, and four journalists at the paper spent years battling charges of insulting state officials before being acquitted earlier this year, says Human Rights Watch.

On the day of the killing, ARTICLE 19 members from Mexico and London were meeting with Russian journalists, including Ali Kamalov, chairman of the Union of Journalists in Dagestan and Hadzhimurad Kamalov's uncle, to discuss journalists' safety strategies. "Journalists from two different countries met and realised they share many similar problems and many strategies to address these problems," explained Nadezhda Azhgikhina of the Russian Union of Journalists.

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