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For Immediate Release
August 13, 1996

Catherine Fitzpatrick
Phone: (212) 465-1004, x 101

Television Journalist Killed In Chechnya

CPJ Says Slaying Marks 10th Death of a Journalist in Chechnya

Ramzan Khadzhiev, chief of the Northern Caucasus bureau for ORT (Russian public television), was shot dead in Chechnya after being waved through a military checkpoint, Associated Press and Internews reported August 13. Khadzhiev was shot in the head twice from two Russian armored personnel carriers while attempting to leave Grozny, capital of the secessionist republic of Chechnya, with his wife and young son. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Khadzhiev's death brings to 10 the number of journalists confirmed as killed in the line of duty in Chechnya since Russian troops invaded Grozny in December 1994. Local groups report higher totals of correspondents' deaths, although very little information is available about the circumstances of some of the killings.

Reports on the incident are contradictory. ORT reported today that Khadzhiev, an ethnic Chechen, was slain by Chechen supporters of the late Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev. But NTV, Russia's only independent television, and RTR, the state-owned company, broadcast an interview with an unidentified passenger in Khadzhiev's car. He said that Russian armored vehicles opened fire at the unmarked Volga in which the family was travelling after Khadzhiev presented his ORT press credentials and was waved through the checkpoint.

"Khadzhiev's death is yet another indication of the indifference of the Yeltsin government to the safety of journalists covering the war. Most disturbing--as in past attacks -- is the official denial of Russian military involvement, essentially condoning violence against the media," said Catherine Fitzpatrick, Eurasian Program Coordinator for CPJ.

The Glasnost Defense Foundation in Moscow, a press freedom monitoring group, characterized Khadzhiev as a supporter of the Moscow-installed government of Doku Zavgayev in Chechnya. Though ORT is partially privately owned and supervised by a public board, it has tended to broadcast the Kremlin's viewpoint on the conflict in Chechnya. Interfax further reported that Zavgayev's bodyguard had identified Khadzhiev's body yesterday at a morgue in the town of Tolstoy-Yurt, nine miles north of Grozny. ORT said that the company had lost contact with Khadzhiev a week ago and appealed for any information on his whereabouts.

The car was not marked as a press vehicle. Due to recent attacks on correspondents' cars marked "TV" or "press," some reporters believe that such markings put them in jeopardy. Last week, for example, Russian helicopters fired at clearly-marked CNN and WTN (World Television Network) vehicles at Grozny checkpointst. CPJ protested to the Russian government about these attacks. In June 1995, minutes after being waved through a military checkpoint, Natalya Alyakina, a free-lance reporter for the German press agency RUFA, was shot by an Interior Ministry soldier. In July of this year, Alyakina's killer was given only a suspended sentence for "involuntary homicide caused by misuse of a weapon."

Four other journalists, including American photojournalist Andrew Shumack, are missing and presumed dead.

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