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Russia10 October 2003

Newspaper editor murdered months after the killing of his predecessor

Reporters Without Borders said it was deeply shocked at the murder of newspaper editor Alexei Sidorov, fatally stabbed by two men who ambushed him in the car park of his apartment building. He died in his wife‚s arms. Valery Ivanov, his predecessor as editor-in-chief of local weekly Toliatinskoie Obosrenie in Toliatti, Samara region, was murdered in similar circumstances on 29 April 2002.

This latest killing, on 9 October, tragically confirmed Russia as Europe’s most murderous country for journalists, said Reporters Without Borders. It was all the more troubling because the earlier murder 18 months ago had never been solved. The press freedom organisation voiced its fears about the apparent impunity for such killers in Russia. It said it expected the authorities to do more than make statements of principle and urged them to show real political will and deploy the needed resources to ensure the killers were caught and punished.

Colleagues of Sidorov, who was 31, believe his murder to be linked to his profession but did not point the finger at any particular suspects. While the newspaper regularly investigated politics, corruption and organised crime, Sidorov had not been working on any particular case at the time, they said.

The chief prosecutor for Komsomolsky district of Tolliatti has launched a murder investigation. Detectives are convinced that they are dealing with a killing by hit men and were looking at the links with Sidorov‚s work. Interior minister Boris Gryzlov said that clearing up the murder case was " a matter of honour ". The information ministry called the murder " a deliberate act of terror against the independent mass media ".

Valery Ivanov, the previous editor of Toliatinskoie obosrenie and owner of Lada TV, was shot dead in front of his home in Toliatti on 29 April 2002. He had been investigating corruption and gang wars to control the local AvtoVAZ vehicle factory. He had been threatened several times and feared he would be murdered. He and his colleagues had often asked for police protection but did not get any. Ivanov was also a member of the local parliament and his newspaper had actively taken part in the election campaign for the local council.

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