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Russian Journalist And Human Rights Activist Tragically Killed In Russian Caucasus

It's a terrible time to be a journalist there.

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Independent journalist Timur Kuashev was found dead in the woods of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic in the Russian Caucasus on August 1, the Guardian reports. The 26-year-old covered security forces' human rights abuses in anti-terrorism operations. / Via

Kuashev wrote for the independent monthly journal "Dosh" and consistently defended the rights of practicing Muslims, reports Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. He reported on injustice on the part of police and security forces in Nalchik, the capital of the autonomous Kabardino-Balkar republic in the Russian Caucasus.

His friends and family believe he was poisoned by security forces in relation to his professional activities, reports Caucasian Knot.

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty / Via

“We believe that Timur was kidnapped from his home,” Dosh wrote.

Kuashev defended the rights of practicing Muslims, which attracted the suspicion of local police. He also criticized Russia's policy in Ukraine. / Via

The journalist had written a formal appeal in May 2014 demanding an investigation into death threats against him. The letter was addressed to the KBR Prosecutor General and Interior Minister, the head of the KBR subsidiary of the Investigative Committee and to Amnesty International.

The Interior Ministry declined to open an investigation.

This came a few days after police detained him for taking part in a ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of the Tsarist war where thousands of Circassions were slaughtered.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe called for an investigation into his death.

Burned cars parked outside a police station in Nalchik, 2005 AFP / Via

Johann Bihr at Reports Without Borders said, “Kuashev’s death is yet another reminder of the exorbitant price paid for independent journalism in certain republics in the Russian Caucasus."

“The lack of any adequate reaction from authorities to the death threats he had received amounts to culpable negligence."

The Russian Caucasus has been a dangerous place for independent journalism for years, reports Reporters Without Borders.

Kavpolit / Via

In October 2011, Reporters Without Borders released a report on the dangers journalists face in the Caucasus.

“The world has just marked the fifth anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, but the Russian Caucasus, which she specialized in covering, is nowadays a blind spot in the international media’s coverage," the report said.

“The media freedom situation in the Russian Caucasus, like that of human rights in general, is still very worrying. Two and a half years after our last visit, journalists continue to be exposed to a climate of violence and corruption that makes their work very difficult.”

Most Russian journalists targeted or killed focus their reporting on the North Caucasus, writes Harvard's Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist, was shot outside her apartment in Moscow in 2006. / Via

The Nieman report recalled a study by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which determined that 86 journalists and media workers died in Russia between 1993 and 2009 because of their work while an additional 38 "may have been killed because of the work they did."

Russia has mostly closed the Caucasus to journalists. Because of this, the violence locals have experienced from separatist, ethnic and religious conflicts goes largely unreported. Many Russian journalists face life-threatening intimidation from the government. They risk their lives to tell the stories of those in the region whose voices otherwise would not be heard.

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