Police must investigate attack on Dagestani reporter

New York, May 5, 2011The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on local police to investigate a Monday attack on Magomed Khanmagomedov, a southern Dagestan correspondent for the Makhachkala-based independent weekly Chernovik.

Khanmagomedov told CPJ that two unidentified men attacked him at around 12:30 p.m. on Monday in the city of Derbent, southern Dagestan. He had gone there to report on the demolition of a building declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The two men demanded that Khanmagomedov stop taking photos of the site. He explained that he was a journalist on an assignment with Chernovik.  When he refused to comply, they punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground, and kicked him in the chest, Khanmagomedov told CPJ. He said he visited a doctor afterward and documented his injuries.

The same day, Khanmagomedov reported the beating to the local police, who dispatched an officer to accompany the journalist to the scene of the attack. When the officer and Khanmagomedov got to the construction site, the journalist spotted the men who attacked him. The officer briefly spoke to the men, and returned to the journalist to relay a threat, Khanmagomedov said. “The officer came back and passed me this message: The men said that the next time I went to report on this site they would break my legs,” Khanmagomedov told CPJ.

CPJ reached the police officer, Malik Sadykov, on Wednesday. He denied passing any message from the attackers to Khanmagomedov. He also said “there was no need” to detain the two men and that the Derbent police department is investigating the incident. A criminal case has not been opened.

“We call on Dagestani authorities to investigate and prosecute those who carried out the attack against Magomed Khanmagomedov,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Given the record of violence and impunity in attacks against journalists in the region, law enforcement must treat each case as a priority.”

This is not the first attack on Khanmagomedov. On November 9, he was assaulted by staffers at a local mayor’s office when he went in for an interview. The mayor personally apologized to him consequently, the independent Caucasus news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. Khanmagomedov’s newspaper, Chernovik, has been at odds with authorities for years, in retaliation for its critical reporting on the activities of the federal security service (FSB) and law enforcement agencies. Nadira Isayeva, Chernovik‘s editor-in-chief, is a 2010 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award.