A local corruption reporter in Russia has died of head injuries in what police said Tuesday was a drunken fall. Colleagues, on the other hand, are sure it was a revenge attack for muckraking journalism.
Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, 63, the editor of a Rostov-on-Don newspaper with a name that translates as Corruption and Crime, died Monday of a severe head injury suffered April 30.
Police say Yaroshenko was drunk and hit his head on the stairs, but colleagues claim Yaroshenko was attacked.
"I have no doubt that the attack was directly connected to Yaroshenko's writing and is payback for his journalistic work," said Sergei Slepzov, a close friend and colleague of Yaroshenko.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has called for an investigation, suggesting that Yaroshenko was targeted because he had written about corruption in the local law enforcement agencies, government office and the prosecutor's office.
But police say there was no evidence of foul play.
"The authorities have already conducted a thorough investigation of all evidence of the crime and did not find any precedent for opening a new investigation," said Col. Aleksei Polyaski, a local police spokesman.
Russia is considered the third-most dangerous country in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Algeria. Nearly 50 journalists have been killed in Russia since the Soviet breakup, among them Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya and U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov.
Few of the murders have been solved in a country where reporters are frequently harassed, threatened and killed for exposing facts that embarrass authorities.
The Union of Journalists of Russia said the problem was that the country's wholly adequate laws to protect journalists are applied arbitrarily.
"Unfortunately we don't have independent courts and that's why all the laws to protect journalists are disregarded," the union's deputy chairman Mikhail Fedotov told The Associated Press.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has urged President Barack Obama to raise the issue of Yaroshenko's death when he visits Russia on Monday.