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Belarus22 October 2004

Independent journalist murdered

Reporters Without Borders expressed shock at the murder of journalist Veronika Cherkasova, who was stabbed to death at her home in the capital Minsk on 20 October 2004.

The worldwide press freedom organisation called on the interior minister, Vladimir Naumov, to ensure the investigation, that has already been opened, was both transparent and thorough.

"Against a background of a serious deterioration in press freedom, a link to her work should not be ruled out. It would be very dangerous to allow a climate of impunity to take hold," said the organisation.

Cherkasova, 44, who worked for the trade union newspaper Solidarnost, was found dead by her step-father, worried by her absence from work that day when she had told her mother by phone the same morning that she would be going in.

It appeared that the journalist could have opened the door to her killer. Blood was found on her notebook, but investigators have not been yet been able to establish what the murderer was looking for. She had been stabbed around a dozen times.

Cherkasova, who previously worked for independent newspapers Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta and Belorusskaya Gazeta, had been on Solidarnost since May 2003. The day before her death she had returned from reporting in Myadel district in the north of the country.

She was a general reporter, covering a wide range of subjects, but she also undertook investigative work on sects and organised crime. She had recently written a series of article headlined, "The KGB is still watching you".

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