New York, October 10, 2003—Aleksei Sidorov, the editor-in-chief of the independent daily Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye, was murdered yesterday in Togliatti, a city situated on the Volga River 600 miles (960 kilometers) east of Moscow.
Sidorov is the second editor-in-chief of Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye to be murdered in the last 18 months. His predecessor, Valery Ivanov, was shot at point-blank range in April 2002.
According to local press reports, two unidentified assailants stabbed Sidorov several times in the chest late in the evening on Thursday, October 9, as he was approaching the apartment building in Togliati where he lived with his family.
The assailants fled after stabbing Sidorov, and the editor died in his wife’s arms after she heard his call for assistance and came down to the entrance of their building.
Journalists at Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye—a newspaper known for its investigative reporting on organized crime, government corruption, and shady corporate deals in the heavily industrialized city of Togliatti—are convinced the murder is in retaliation for Sidorov’s work.
“All of our investigative work was supervised by Aleksei,” a journalist at Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a telephone interview today. Another journalist at the paper told CPJ that Sidorov had received unspecified threats in retaliation for his work.
“Sidorov’s murder shows that investigative reporting is incredibly dangerous in Russia, and that the authorities are not doing enough to protect journalists,” said CPJ executive Ann Cooper. “We call on the police and local authorities to aggressively investigate and prosecute those responsible for murdering Sidorov.”
Local police have initiated an investigation into the murder and consider Sidorov’s journalistic activities a primary motive.
Sidorov became editor-in-chief of Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye after Ivanov, who also served as a deputy in the local Legislative Assembly, was murdered last year. While Ivanov’s murder remains unsolved, both the police and journalists at the paper believe that, like Sidorov, Ivanov was killed because of his work and the paper’s commitment to reporting about organized crime, drug trafficking, and official corruption.