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
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.”