MAKHACHKALA, Russia (Reuters) - The founder of a newspaper that investigated government corruption was shot dead in Russia's North Caucasus region, in what an international watchdog called "a lethal blow to press freedom."
A gunman shot Gadzhimurat Kamalov as he was leaving the offices of the newspaper Chernovik in the capital of Dagestan province shortly before midnight on Thursday, the regional Interior Ministry said.
Police said Kamalov was shot eight times and was pronounced dead on the way to hospital.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said journalists at Chernovik, known for reporting on corruption in the provincial administration, had been "routinely persecuted for their work".
"The assassination of Gadzhimurat Kamalov is a massive loss for independent journalism in the North Caucasus, Russia's most dangerous place for reporters," the advocacy group's regional coordinator Nina Ognianova said in a statement.
Russian journalists who investigate corruption face serious risks, particularly in the provinces, where authorities are less likely to face scrutiny over attacks on journalists.
Predominantly Muslim Dagestan is plagued by violence stemming from an Islamist insurgency rooted in the 1990s separatist wars in neighboring Chechnya as well as conflicts over business and political power.
There have been 19 unsolved murders of journalists in Russia since 2000, including the 2006 killing of Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, according to the CPJ.
It lists Russia as eighth on its "Impunity Index", a list of states where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Tim Pearce)