Human Rights House Foundation

United Kingdom

Image: Kazbek Gekkiyev, Russian TV journalist, murdered on 6 December 2012. 
Copyright: VGTRK

TV newsreader shot in Russia the same day as a campaign against murders of journalists started

On 6 December Kazbek Gekkiyev, a journalist on the local TV station, was murdered in the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria on his way home. His death coincided with the launch of the Speak Justice Campaign. Its aim is to break the terrible cycle of murder and impunity currently experienced by journalists around the world.

Sunday, 09 December 2012, by HRH London, based on English PEN, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Two unidentified men shot Kazbek Gekkiyev, 28, in the head three times while he was returning home from from the television studio with his friend at around 21:00 in Nalchik, the capital of the republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, Committee to Protect Journalists reports.

Gunmen asked journalist's name before a shot

Witnesses said Gekkiyev was walking in the street when a car stopped and two unidentified people got out. The gunmen asked the journalist his name before they shot him and then fled in a getaway vehicle. The journalist's friend was unharmed.

According to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told journalists in Moscow on 6 December that before killing Gekkiev, the suspects made sure he was indeed a journalist, the host of a news program.

Gekkiyev worked as a news anchor covering social issues for the regional branch of the state-owned broadcaster All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK). Local journalists said that several VGTRK journalists had received threats in the past year and quit their jobs.

Murder can be linked to journalist’s work

Reporters Without Borders inform that the police launched an immediate investigation into the killing, which they believe could be linked to the journalist’s work. Lyudmila Kazancheva, the head of the local VGTRK office, said his work did not directly involve sensitive subjects. According to the federal Investigative Committee, there could be a link to threats from radical Islamist groups received by journalists at the TV station.

Novaya Gazeta informs that Islamist separatist fighters in the region had started publishing on websites threats against journalists working for state media and accusing them of "one-sided coverage of events".

Regional authorities immediately condemned the killing and pledged that the crime would be solved. At the press conference Markin told: "At this moment, we can say that the most probable motive was Gekkiyev’s professional activity". According to Markin, it appears that Gekkiyev's killers thoroughly planned the attack.

The North Caucasus is the most dangerous region in Russia for the media workers. On 15 December last year an eminent independent journalist Khadzhimurad Kamalov was shot dead in the Caucasian republic of Dagestan. To date there has been no progress in the investigation of that crime.

Speak Justice campaign launched on the same day

Responding to the global threat to journalism that impunity in attacks on the press causes, CPJ has launched the Speak Justice campaign the same day. English PEN supports the campaign.

Around the globe, more than 660 reporters, editors, photographers, and cameramen have been killed since 1992, permenantly silenced because of what they have reported. In 90 percent of their cases, no perpetrator has been brought to justice. This silencing message fosters self-censorship. It weakens the ability of the press to hold power to account and suppresses public scrutiny of sensitive issues.

Conflict-ridden Iraq and Somalia have the highest impunity rates. They are closely followed by the Philippines, Pakistan, Russia, India and Brazil. The topics most often covered by murdered journalists–politics, corruption, conflict, crime, and human rights–are all issues of vital concern to any citizen.

Threats and kidnappings escalate into killings, a fatal yet avoidable outcome cemented by weak or indifferent authorities who feed a cycle of impunity.

Killers' message: Be silent or die

The campaigners say that in places where censorship-by-murder is common, the killers' message is simple: Be silent or die. And in many instances, this message is echoed by local authorities that lack the capacity, or will, to find and punish perpetrators, and to protect journalists who are still alive.

This cycle of fear fosters silence. It nurtures self-censorship. It weakens the ability of the press to hold governments to account, and to keep citizens informed.

The organisers and the supporters of the campaign believe it is possible to break the cycle of silence and fear. The campaign's dedicated website, www.speakjusticenow.org, features interactive maps and an infographic video that allow users to explore the places where journalists are being murdered, and the issues that they were killed for.

The goal of the campaign is to achieve justice and better protection for journalists working hard to get society the truth.

On 9 December, International Anti-Corruption Day, the campaign’s advocates spread the word about the 190 journalists murdered for their investigations into corruption worldwide. And on Human Rights Day, 10 December, they join the global call for human rights, reminding the world that everyone shares a collective right to information, one that is taken from us when journalists are murdered.

HRH London, based on English PEN, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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