Editor shot and killed in Dagestan

New York, August 11, 2009The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the slaying in Dagestan today of Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, an editor known for his critical commentary, and urges Russian authorities to thoroughly probe journalism as the motive. Akhmedilov, 32, left, was shot in his car at around 1 p.m. local time on the outskirts of Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala, the independent Caucasus news Web site Kavkazsky Uzel reported


The Dagestan Investigative Committee, the region’s investigative office, has opened a probe into the murder, the agency reported on its Web site.

Akhmedilov, known as Malik, was deputy editor of the Makhachkala-based daily Hakikat (The Truth) and a chief editor of the political monthly Sogratl­. Both newspapers are published in Avar, the language of the largest ethnic group in the volatile, multiethnic southern republic of Dagestan.


In columns in Hakikat, Akhmedilov sharply criticized federal forces and local law enforcement for suppressing religious and political dissent under the guise of an “anti-extremism” campaign, Zulfiya Gadzhiyeva, a Hakikat journalist, told CPJ. The campaign is ostensibly designed to curb the spread of the conservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism, which has gained popularity in Dagestan and other North Caucasus republics.


According to the Russian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Akhmedilov was known for his investigative reporting into the recent assassinations of Dagestan officials. Akhmedilov did not report receiving any threats, Gadzhiyeva said.


“We express our deepest condolences to Malik Akhmedilov’s family and colleagues. Russian authorities must thoroughly examine the possible connection between the journalist’s work and his brutal murder,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Dagestan is one of the most dangerous places to report in one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists. Authorities must ensure the safety of these reporters.”


Gadzhiyeva, who visited the crime scene and met with Akhmedilov’s wife and neighbors, said at least one killer was parked in the editor’s neighborhood in a Lada sedan with tinted windows and no license plates. When Akhmedilov left home in his car for an errand, the Lada followed and at least one gunman fired, Gadzhiyeva told CPJ.


Gadzhiyeva told CPJ that Akhmedilov’s neighbors had seen the same Lada parked in the neighborhood for at least two days prior to the killing. Akhmedilov did not have any business interests; journalism was his sole occupation, she said.