Officially the Russian Caucasus has been at peace since the end of the Second Chechen War but that does not prevent an average of one journalist a year being killed in connection with their work. Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev was one. The deputy editor of the independent daily Novoye Delo and a correspondent of the Kavkazkii Uzel news website, he was gunned as he was leaving his home in Semender, a suburb of Dagestan’s capital, Makhachkala, on 9 July 2013.
There was no shortage of warning signs. In 2009, his name was on a hit-list circulating in Makhachkala that accused several independent journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers of colluding with Dagestan’s armed Islamists and threatened them with death to avenge the murders of policemen. One of these journalists was gunned down in December 2011.
Known for covering human rights violations, corruption and the persecution of religious minorities, Akhmednabiyev had received many other threats and had narrowly escaped a murder attempt on 11 January 2013, when four shots fired in his direction only just missed him. Nonetheless, he was not given any protection after this shooting, which the prosecutor’s office did not even treat as a murder attempt.
Reporters Without Borders followed the investigation into his death and repeatedly criticized its shortcomings. Closed after a year, the investigation was reopened in September 2014 as a result of international pressure but yet again no progress was made. Reporters Without Borders and 30 other NGOs sent a joint letter to the Federal Investigative Committee on 2 November 2014 asking it to intervene. Despite several follow-ups, the letter did not get a reply.