A Russian journalist who investigated government corruption was shot dead in a restive southern province Thursday night as he was leaving the offices of the newspaper he founded.

Gadzhimurat Kamalov at a rally in Makhachkala, Dagestan, southern Russia. (Sergei Rasulov/Associated Press)

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called the shooting of Kamalov “a lethal blow to press freedom” in the country. CPJ said journalists at the newspaper Chernovik (meaning “Rough Draft”) had been “routinely persecuted for their work,” which included many reports on corruption among authorities in the province of Dagestan.

Kamalov was one of eight journalists on an “execution list” published anonymously in the province in 2009, The Guardian reports. Kamalov was identified as a target for allegedly sympathizing with rebel fighters, and as an object of revenge for the deaths of police and civilians in the region, The Guardian said.

“Know that you are in our sights and soon every one of you will answer for your actions,” the anonymous letter read.

In what appears to be Kamalov’s last piece for Chernovik, he wrote about tensions in local elections. There appeared to be no mention Friday of the founder’s death on the news site.

In recent weeks, protests across the country had spread to Dagestan, with thousands voicing dissent to human rights abuses of security services against civilians in the region, The Guardian reports. Dagestan is located in the North Caucasus region, known as the most dangerous region for reporters in Russia.

Kamalov’s murder occurred on the day of remembrance in Russia for journalists killed in the line of duty.