Gadzhimurad Kamalov

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A masked assailant apparently lying in wait fired 14 times
as Kamalov, founder of the independent weekly Chernovik, was leaving work shortly before midnight. Kamalov, 46, who
was also a contributing editor and writer, died en route to a local hospital. A
Chernovik staffer who witnessed the
murder through an office window told CPJ that the assailant fled the scene in a
Lada Priora.

Chernovik, the
most popular newspaper in Dagestan, was known for its independence and
courageous coverage of government corruption, human rights abuses, and Islamic
radicalism. From 2008
until 2011, Chernovik and five of its
journalists, including then-editor and CPJ International Press Freedom Award
winner Nadira
Isayeva
, were subjected to a politically motivated prosecution
on trumped-up “extremism” charges stemming from the paper’s critical coverage of
regional police and the federal security service. The journalists were acquitted
of the charges in May.

Biyakai Magomedov, editor of Chernovik, told CPJ that Kamalov had not disclosed recent threats.
But a family member told the regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel that threats had been commonplace since the paper
was launched in 2003. “Since the time Chernovik
started publishing, there have been a number of threats, and he had foes,”
Khadzhimurad Radzhabov, a cousin and colleague of Kamalov, told Kavkazsky Uzel.

In recent television interviews, Kamalov had made critical
comments about alleged regional government corruption. “Dagestan is sinking
into idleness, into misguided scattering of federal money,” Kavkazsky Uzel quoted Kamalov as saying
in a February interview with the national television channel NTV. “You would
not see a single Russian region with a bigger quantity of restaurants, banquet
halls, saunas, casinos, and hookah parlors as Makhachkala.”

Kamalov’s name was among 16 included on a “death list”
published anonymously and distributed in the form of a handout in Makhachkala
in September 2009, according to Russian press reports. The handout, which named
eight journalists among its targets, called for “destruction of the bandits and
revenge for police officers and peaceful citizens.”