ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) — One journalist was shot and killed and another was left with a fractured skull after a beating in Russia’s troubled North Caucasus, and police and co-workers said Wednesday the two men were likely targeted for their work.
The attacks on an Islamic TV reporter and an opposition newspaper editor are the latest violence to renew fears about the safety of journalists in Russia. A third journalist was shot by police on Sunday — a killing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said represented “a further deterioration of media freedom in Russia.”
In the North Caucasus city of Makhachkala, Islamic TV reporter Telman Alishaev died at a hospital Wednesday morning, one day after being shot by two men as he sat in his car, Interior Ministry spokesman Mark Tolchinsky said.
Alishaev, who hosted a religious-themed program in Dagestan, had produced documentaries and written extensively about Wahhabism — a severe strain of Islam that is the main sect in Saudi Arabia, Shamil Guseinov, another Interior Ministry official, said.
Meanwhile, police in the North Caucasus city of Nalchik said Wednesday that three people, one in a mask, assaulted Miloslav Bitokov outside his home Tuesday evening, along with another man. Bitokov was hospitalized with skull injuries.
Colleagues at Bitokov’s newspaper “Gazeta Yuga” said he had been threatened previously for publishing articles critical of local authorities.
Both Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkariya, where Bitokov was killed, border Russia’s violence-wracked southern region of Chechnya. Rights groups say authorities in both regions have stepped up pressure against opposition groups and independent media in recent years. Also targeted have been devout Muslims who practice outside of officially sanctioned mosques and are frequently labeled by authorities as being “Wahhabis.”
Russia has long been considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. More than a dozen reporters have been slain in contract-style killings since 2000 including Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist killed in 2006 after winning acclaim for reporting on atrocities in Chechnya.
On Sunday, the owner of an independent Web site in another Caucasus region, Ingushetia, was shot and killed by police and his body dumped by the side of the road, his colleague said. Magomed Yevloyev ran a Web site that was intensely critical of Ingush authorities.
Hundreds of angry mourners gathered Monday in Ingushetia’s main city of Nazran to mourn Yevloyev’s death in a rally that turned into an anti-government demonstration.
Prosecutors say Yevloyev was accidentally shot while sitting in a police car after he tried to take away a police officer’s gun.
Associated Press Writer Arsen Mollayev contributed to this report from Makhachkala.