MOSCOW, December 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that those responsible for the murder of a TV journalist in Kabardino-Balkaria will be caught and punished.
“I am certain that our police will do everything possible to track down and punish these criminals,” Putin said at a meeting with Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin.
Kazbek Gekkiyev, a TV host of a local daily news program for state-owned VGTRK broadcasting company, was shot dead late on Wednesday in Nalchik, capital of the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.
The journalist was likely targeted because of his "professional activities," investigators believe.
Putin said that Gekkiyev’s murder raises questions about the efficiency of work to protect basic human rights - the right to live and the right to disseminate information.
Journalists reporting on the battle between the federal authorities and Islamist militants in the volatile North Caucasus have previously been targeted as a result of their coverage.
Earlier this year, a group of unknown extremists posted a video online threatening some of Gekkiyev’s colleagues, although he was not named. When two employees were taken off the air for their own safety, Gekkiyev replaced one of them as a presenter.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 53 journalists were killed in Russia in the past two decades as a result of their work.
The most high-profile during the Putin-era was the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who gained international recognition for her outspoken criticism of the Kremlin and claims of state-backed atrocities against civilians in Chechnya. She was gunned down in the entrance of her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said in October that a preliminary investigation into Politkovskaya’s murder had been completed and five suspects had been charged in the case.