BY Reporters Without Borders

Independent journalist murdered in Kabardino-Balkaria

Reporters Without Borders offers its heartfelt condolences to the family and colleagues of Timur Kuashev, a journalist and human rights defender who was found dead today in a suburb of Nalchik, the capital of the autonomous Kabardino-Balkar Republic in the Russian Caucasus.

He was the Nalchik correspondent of Dosh, a magazine that specializes in covering the Russian Caucasus.

“Kuashev’s death is yet another reminder of the exorbitant price paid for independent journalism in certain republics in the Russian Caucasus,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“The lack of any adequate reaction from authorities to the death threats he had received amounts to culpable negligence. A full and impartial investigation must be conducted, if necessary from outside Kabardino-Balkaria, to identify this murder’s perpetrators and instigators. The widespread impunity enjoyed by those who attack journalists in the region must be ended as a matter of urgency.”

Kuashev’s body was found this afternoon in a wood near the Nalchik suburb of Khasania after he went missing yesterday evening. According to initial reports, the body bore no visible signs of violence. An autopsy is to be carried out to determine the cause of death.

“We believe that Timur was kidnapped from his home,” Dosh wrote today, pointing that his body was found in the kind of clothes worn at home, and that his mobile phone, which he always took with him, had been left in his apartment.

Kuashev had been covering abuses carried out by the security forces in the course of anti-terrorism operations. A defender of the rights of the Cherkess population, he also recently criticized Russian policy in Ukraine and the Israeli intervention in Gaza.

He had been getting threats for years and, on 30 April 2013, he published an open letter to the security forces and to human rights organizations in which he said he was concerned for his life.

He had also reported received death threats from users of the LiveJournal blog platform. “As a provocateur, aren’t you afraid of being swept away by the wave you create,” one wrote, suggesting that Kuashev was on a hit-list. “Don’t play with fire... reflect for once (...) on what you are doing and where it is leading you. That’s my advice.” Another wrote: “You will die at an astonishingly young age.”

Police arrested him on 21 May, just before the start of a march marking the 150th anniversary of the end of the Caucasian War, and held him for four hours at a police station without explanation, thereby preventing him from participating in the march.

A few days before that, he had reported on LiveJournal that the interior ministry’s anti-terrorism centre had launched a smear campaign against him. While held, a policeman reportedly told him: “You will pay if you continue in the same way.”

Dosh publisher Abdulla Duduyev told Reporters Without Borders: “At our request (...) Timur Kuashev wrote articles on the most current topics – politics, illegal actions by the security forces and special operations. He always wrote effectively, honestly and courageously.”

Dosh was awarded the Reporters Without Borders press freedom prize in the “Media” category in 2009.

As a result of the extreme polarization in Kabardino-Balkaria and neighbouring republics, independent journalism is very dangerous and is often identified with support for armed Islamists.

Reporters Without Borders published a report on media freedom in nearby Dagestan and Chechnya in October 2011.

See the original article here.