Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

Call for full investigation into Siberian editor's murder

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 30 May 2017
Other Languages / Attachments Russian
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Call for full investigation into Siberian editor's murder, 30 May 2017, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/592d836b4.html [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The investigation into an outspoken newspaper editor's murder last week in the Siberian city of Minusinsk must be thorough and impartial and must examine the possibility that it was linked to his work as a journalist, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said today.

The body of Dmitry Popkov, 42, the founder and editor of the local newspaper Ton-M, was found on the evening of 24 May. He had been shot nine times with a gun fitted with a silencer. The local office of the Investigative Committee said it intended to consider all possible motives, including a connection to his work.

"We note that an investigation is under way into this journalist's murder," said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. "Given the sensitive nature of his work and the climate of intolerance towards critics in Minusinsk, serious consideration must the given to the possibility that the murder was linked to his reporting."

Bihr added: "A full and impartial investigation is essential in order to break the vicious circle of impunity that is only too often enjoyed by those who murder or attack Russian journalists."

Popkov created Ton-M in May 2014 after being fired from the municipal council on the grounds that he had been convicted of hitting a diabetic teenager. Popkov denied the charge, saying be was the victim of a provocation designed to punish him for opposing the local authorities.

From the outset, Ton-M focused on local politics, especially corruption and abuse of authority, using the slogan, "We write what the others stay silent about." The stories it covered included the case of a former Minusinsk official who was convicted of fraud.

Popkov was one of the signatories of an appeal to the Regional Union of Journalists earlier this month accusing the local authorities of violating the rights of the media. It followed an announcement by the city's mayor that a complaint would be filed with the local prosecutor accusing unaccredited journalists of "provocation" during a municipal council meeting on 5 May and "obstructing" its work. In response, the journalists accused the council of making it much harder to get accreditation.

The dispute is one of the latest examples of a growing mistrust and intolerance on the part of local officials towards journalists. A decree issued on 16 May included unaccredited journalists along with drug addicts and alcoholics on a list of persons banned from entering municipal buildings.

Popkov is the second journalist to be murdered this year in Russia. The first was Nikolai Andrushchenko, who died in a Saint Petersburg hospital on 19 April from the severe injuries he received in a brutal attack.He had covered organized crime and cases of corruption involving members of the local elite.

Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index. Previous RSF press releases have condemned the growing harassment of independent media outlets by the authorities, the curtailment of Internet freedoms and chronic failure to punish those who attack and murder journalists.

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