Natalya Estemirova

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Four men forced Estemirova, 50, into a white Lada sedan in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, as she was leaving her apartment for work, Reuters reported. Witnesses said the journalist shouted that she was being kidnapped as the car sped from the scene, according to press reports. Later the same day, her body was found in the neighboring region of Ingushetia, according to international news reports. She was shot in the head and the chest; no belongings were reported missing.

Estemirova was a frequent contributor to the independent Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the Caucasus news Web site Kavkazsky Uzel. She was also an advocate for the Moscow-based human rights group Memorial and a consultant for the New York-based international rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW). She was the fifth Novaya Gazeta journalist killed since 2000.

Estemirova’s colleagues told CPJ that her relentless reporting on human rights violations committed by federal and regional authorities in Chechnya put her at odds with regional officials. Oleg Orlov, head of Memorial, told the Russian service of the U.S. government-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that he believed Chechen authorities were behind the murder of his colleague.

Estemirova was one of the very few people reporting regularly from Chechnya on human rights abuses. She had covered extrajudicial killings, abductions, and punitive arsons for Novaya Gazeta. After a series of threats from Chechen authorities, she wrote under a pseudonym, Novaya Gazeta reporter Elena Milashina said. Shortly before the murder, she had contributed to an HRW report on the punitive burning of houses by regional authorities.

President Dmitry Medvedev condemned the murder in remarks to journalists at the Russian-German Public Forum in Munich on July 16. “What’s most important is to find the criminals responsible and to sentence them to the punishment they deserve. This is important,” he said. “It is important to do this to honor the people who died while defending our legal system, defending regular people, and to educate an entire new generation of citizens.” 

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