Journalist Attacked in Dagestan, Russia

Makhachkala, Russia —

Unknown attackers burst into the offices of the Novoe Delo newspaper in the southern Republic of Dagestan Thursday, attacking deputy editor-in-chief Gadzhimurad Sagitov. As the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) online newspaper reports, Sagitov was putting the finishing touches on the popular regional weekly’s print edition, when two assailants ran into his office and started hitting him with their fists.

When he recovered, the deputy editor of development and logistics informed his local police precinct, then went to a local clinic for a forensic evaluation. Doctors said he was in fair condition, and had refused hospitalization.

The weekly paper’s editor-in-chief, Marko Shakhbanov, said he was shocked, and could not think of any reason for the attack. “The issue which will come out tomorrow,” he said, “does not have any problematic articles, and Sagitov himself deals with the weekly’s circulation. He has never written any edgy articles.”

Novoe Delo, which is independently owned, has a print run of around 20 thousand copies. According to the Kavkazsky Uzel, journalists writing for the paper have had problems with local officials over critical reporting. During the summer, militsiya officers locked in the editorial offices and conducted an auditing inspection.

The weekly’s management also filed suit against Makhachkala’s deputy mayor, Abdurakhman Guseinov, who accused the paper’s writers of aiding and abetting armed insurgents.

Attacks on journalists, sometimes fatal, are common in Dagestan. 2008 has been a dangerous year.

On November 9th, a sports writer for the Chernovik newspaper, Aleksandr Polyakov, was jumped outside his home. He had written a set of articles describing that billionaire Suleiman Kerimov was planning to buy a local sports team.

On September 2nd, a reporter for the TV-Chirkey broadcaster, Telman (Abdullah) Alishaev was gunned down in his car in Makhachkala. He died the next morning.

On March 21st, Gadzhi Abashilov, the president of the regional state-run TV and Radio company, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Makhachkala. Authorities found that his professional life was the most likely reason for his death. Three defendants were charged in the case on July 29th.

In late February, two other journalists, Zaur Gaziev and Ruslan Gabibulin, were attacked in the Dagestani capital.

Reporters Without Borders classifies Russia as one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists. According to the press freedom watchdog, Russia trails only Iraq and Algeria for the number of reporters killed since 1992.