Outcry over murder of Russian website owner

1 Sep 2008

There has been international outcry over the arrest and subsequent murder of an opposition website owner in Russia.

The owner of the website www.ingushetiya.ru, Magomed Yevloyev, was arrested after disembarking from a flight at Nazran Airport in southern Russia at the weekend.

His body was later found dumped at the side of the road with a gunshot wound to the head. He passed away at a nearby hospital while on the operating table.

Prominent press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders has condemned the action.

“We are outraged by the death of Yevloyev, who repeatedly demonstrated his courage and determination by reporting independent news in Ingushetiya, although he and his family were harassed and threatened,” said Reporters Without Borders.

“His death must not go unpunished. It is vital that the international community, especially the European Union, should demand to know what really happened and who was responsible. The explanations given by the Ingush authorities make no sense.”

The Ingush interior ministry said Yevloyev was killed “accidentally” while resisting arrest. But government opponent, Magomed Hazbiyev, who had gone to the airport to meet him, insisted that government agents deliberately shot him while he was in their car.

Yevloyev had been the target of serious threats and, in October 2007, he accused President Zyazikov on the Ingushetiya.ru website of hiring hit men to kill him. His family has also received threats from Ingush politicians.

Fearing that her life was in danger, the website’s editor, Rosa Malsagova, left Russia earlier this month and sought political asylum in the EU.

A Russian court ordered Ingushetiya.ru’s closure on 26 May for publishing “extremist” articles. The only Ingush-language news portal, it has been the target of repeated smear campaigns. The Ingush authorities created a website in March with a similar address to combat its news reports.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: the Kremlin in Moscow

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years