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Russia31 May 2005

Call for murder investigation into young cameraman’s death

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Russian authorities to open a murder investigation in the case of Pavel Makeev, a young cameraman with the TV station Puls in Azov (near Rostov-on-Don), who was found dead in suspicious circumstances at a roadside outside Azov on 21 May after finishing a report about illegal dragster racing.

"It is unacceptable that the police have assumed that Makeev was killed in an ordinary road accident although he had been covering an activity known for its links to organized crime and several factors suggest he was murdered," the press freedom organization said.

"We call on the interior minister to order an immediate murder investigation, one that is fair and transparent and considers the possibility that he was killed because of his work as a journalist, so that those responsible can be quickly brought to justice," the organization added.

Makeev’s body was found at 1 a.m. on 21 May at the side of the road from Azov to Batayisk, near the village of Lush. Police investigators said it was located about 15 metres from a pool of blood. His body appears to have been dragged along the road but it is not known whether he was still alive at the time. No tyre marks from a car braking sharply were found on the road surface. His Sony video camera and videotapes and his mobile phone were missing.

The local police said they found the body after responding to an anonymous call requesting that an ambulance be sent to the scene.

The police are treating it as a hit-and-run and, on the basis of windscreen fragments found at the scene, are looking for a white Vaz car. Fingerprints were found on the windscreen fragments. No road accident was reported in the area that night.

Puls editor in chief Helena Kravtsova issued a statement expressing surprise that Makeev’s family was not contacted by the police until 10 a.m. on 21 May, although he was carrying a Puls press ID on him.

"He went on his own initiative to cover a night-time car race because he knew the station would refuse to send him officially, because of the enormous risks involved," the statement said. "It is too dangerous for a journalist to cover this kind of illegal race, which is organized by the mafia and local bigwigs with the police looking the other way. Pavel was clearly murdered because those organizing the betting do not like their shady activities being exposed."

Puls appealed for witnesses to come forward and said it would conduct its own investigation.

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