Kazbek Gekkiyev

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Two assailants shot Gekkiyev three times in
the head as he was returning home from work with a friend at about 9 p.m. in
Nalchik, capital of the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, according to local and international news reports. Gekkiyev, 28, was a news anchor for the
regional affiliate of state-owned broadcaster VGTRK.

The unidentified gunmen asked Gekkiyev
his name before firing, according to the state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
The journalist’s friend was unharmed, news reports
said.


In addition to his anchor duties, Gekkiyev
covered social issues for VGTRK. Local reporters said several VGTRK journalists
had received threats in the past year, prompting some to quit their jobs,
according to the Moscow-based independent newspaper
Novaya Gazeta, which
regularly covers the North Caucasus. The paper said Islamist separatist
fighters in the region had started publishing threats online against
journalists working for state media and accusing them of “one-sided coverage of
events,” Novaya Gazeta reported.


Gekkiyev was the 7th journalist to be murdered
in direct relation to his work in the past decade in the North Caucasus region,
making it the most dangerous place in Russia for the press.


Regional authorities immediately
condemned the killing and pledged that the crime would be solved. President
Vladimir Putin ordered investigators to bring Gekkiyev’s killers to justice,
the independent news website Gazeta
reported. Russia’s
Investigative Committee announced in a
statement on its website
that it was looking into Gekkiyev’s journalism as a motive for his murder. The
committee’s spokesman, Vladimir Markin, said the murder was a “threat to other
journalists speaking about results of the fight against the bandit underground
in the republic,” according to
Reuters. Authorities often
call insurgents “members of the bandit underground.”