Annals of "Pacified" Chechnya: Journalists Dropping like Flies

The New York Times reports:

Two journalists from the restive Caucasus region of Dagestan were killed in separate incidents, Russian news agencies reported. Gadzhi Abashilov, chairman of the Dagestan state broadcasting company and a former television journalist, was shot dead when unidentified gunmen fired on his car in the regional capital, Makhachkala, Tass reported. Mr. Abashilov’s killing came hours after the body of another television journalist, originally from Dagestan, was found in Moscow after he was strangled in his apartment. The Associated Press reported that the victim was Ilyas Shurapayev, of Channel One. More than a dozen journalists have died in Russian contract-style killings since 2000.

The Press Association adds:

A journalist with state-run Russian television has been found dead in a Moscow apartment with a belt around his neck and numerous stab wounds. The victim, Channel One journalist Ilyas Shurpayev, comes from the southern province of Dagestan, which is plagued by clan struggles and criminal violence. Later, unidentified gunmen also shot and killed the head of Dagestan’s provincial state-controlled TV station, and police were looking at a possible link between the two murders.

There is no evidence so far that Mr Shurpayev’s killing was connected to his work, and little chance that his reports on the state station, which is controlled by the Kremlin, would have angered authorities. Russia has increasingly been seen as unsafe for journalists. In 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote about Russian atrocities in Chechnya, was shot dead in a killing that has never been solved.

Firefighters found Mr Shurpayev’s body in his rented studio apartment on Friday after a fire apparently started after the attack, Channel One spokeswoman Larisa Krymova said. The Investigative Committee, the branch of the prosecutor’s office that announced the murder investigation, said nothing about a possible motive for Shurpayev’s killing. Ms Krymova also declined comment on that aspect of the case. State-run Vesti-24 television cited a concierge in Shurpayev’s building as saying he had called down from his apartment to ask her to let in two young men. The men apparently looked like natives of North Caucasus, the report said. Mr Shurpayev, 32, had worked in Russia’s violence-ridden North Caucasus, which includes Dagestan and war-scarred Chechnya.

Hours before his death, he wrote in his blog that the owners of a newspaper in Dagestan banned a column he wrote from appearing in the paper and instructed its staffers not to mention his name in publications. “Now I am a dissident!” was the headline of the last entry in his web journal.

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