New York, October 21, 2004—Well-known Belarusian journalist Veronika Cherkasova was killed in her apartment in the capital, Minsk, yesterday. Her body, which had multiple stab wounds, was found last night, according to local and international reports.
Cherkasova, 44, had reported for the Minsk-based opposition newspaper Solidarnost since May 2003. Previously, she worked for the independent business newspaper Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta (BDG), where she reported from 1995 to 2002. Cherkasova primarily covered social and cultural news but occasionally wrote about politically sensitive issues such as drug abuse, according to her former BDG colleague and editor, Svetlana Kalinkina.
Marina Zagorskaya, a Solidarnost reporter, told CPJ that four months ago, Cherkasova had written a series, titled “The KGB is still following you,” outlining the methods of surveillance the Belarusian Security Services currently use to monitor civilians’ activities.
Cherkasova’s stepfather, Vladimir Melezhko, found the journalist’s body last night after she did not go to work and failed to answer phone calls on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported. She was stabbed 20 times, mostly around the throat. Police found no evidence of a break-in, and nothing was taken from the apartment, according to local reports.
“We are extremely saddened by our colleague’s death,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “CPJ demands that Belarusian authorities investigate this murder quickly and thoroughly.”
In an unrelated incident on Sunday, October 17, several men beat prominent Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet, a correspondent for Russian television’s First Channel. The attack occurred on the day a constitutional referendum allowing President Aleksandr Lukashenko to run for additional terms was passed.
Sheremet was hospitalized in Minsk with a concussion, and police charged him with hooliganism, according to local and international press reports. He was ordered to report to the Soviet Regional Court in Minsk yesterday. The hearing was postponed indefinitely because the police had failed to file the necessary documents in his case.
On Tuesday, October 19, a peaceful opposition protest in Minsk challenging the legitimacy of the constitutional referendum was violently dispersed by police. Fifty opposition activists were detained that evening, and several journalists were injured, including cameramen from the Russian television channels NTV and REN-TV, whose video cameras were smashed.