New York, December 6, 2012--Authorities should immediately investigate Wednesday's murder of a journalist in Russia's volatile North Caucasus and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Two unidentified men shot Kazbek Gekkiyev, 28, in the head three times while he was returning home from work with his friend at around 9 p.m. in Nalchik, the capital of the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, according to local and international news reports. The gunmen asked Gekkiyev his name before they shot him and then fled in a getaway vehicle, according to the state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. The journalist's friend was unharmed, news reports said.
Gekkiyev worked as a news anchor covering social issues for the regional branch of the state-owned broadcaster All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK). Local journalists said that several VGTRK journalists had received threats in the past year and quit their jobs, according to the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which regularly covers the North Caucasus. The paper also said that Islamist separatist fighters in the region had started publishing on websites threats against journalists working for state media and accusing them of "one-sided coverage of events," Novaya Gazeta reported.
"We are deeply saddened by the murder of Kazbek Gekkiyev and send our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "Journalists must never face violence--or murder--for their work, and those crimes must never remain unpunished. We call on Russian authorities to stop the impunity in this and the 16 other unsolved killings of journalists in the country over the past decade."
Regional authorities immediately condemned the killing and pledged that the crime would be solved.
President Vladimir Putin ordered investigators to bring Gekkiyev's killers to justice, the independent news website Gazeta reported. Russia's Investigative Committee announced in a statement on its website that it was looking into Gekkiyev's journalism as a motive for his murder. The committee's spokesman, Vladimir Markin, said the murder was a "threat to other journalists speaking about results of the fight against the bandit underground in the republic," according to Reuters. Authorities often call insurgents "members of the bandit underground," according to news reports.
Journalism can be a deadly profession in Russia. CPJ's Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of every country's population, has identified Russia as the ninth worst nation in the world for combating anti-press deadly violence. Among the unsolved murders over the past decade, at least six of them were slain in the North Caucasus region in retaliation for their journalism. In no cases have the perpetrators been brought to justice.
Responding to the global threat to journalism that impunity in attacks on the press causes, CPJ today launched its Speak Justice campaign. "Around the globe, more than 660 reporters, editors, photographers, and cameramen have been murdered, and in 90 percent of their cases, no perpetrator has been brought to justice," CPJ said. We invite readers to join us in a collective call against those who use murder--the ultimate weapon--to silence the press.
- For more data and analysis on Russia, visit CPJ's Russia page here.