“Physical attacks and death threats against journalists by criminal groups are especially common in Bulgaria,” said Reporters Without Borders, which compiles the World Press Freedom index. In its 2018 survey, the group described corruption and ...
The European commission and German government have urged Bulgarian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the brutal killing of the journalist Viktoria Marinova, who had been reporting on alleged corruption in one of the EU’s newest member states.
The commission vice-president, Frans Timmermans, said he was “shocked by the horrendous murder of Victoria [sic] Marinova”. He tweeted: “Again a courageous journalist falls in the fight for truth and against corruption. Those responsible should be brought to justice immediately by the Bulgarian authorities.”
The German government condemned the “brutal and dreadful murder” of Marinova and said it was imperative that “there is a fast investigation and that this horrible event will be illuminated as comprehensively as possible.”
Marinova, a 30-year-old Bulgarian TV journalist, was found dead in a park in the north Bulgarian city of Ruse on Saturday. She had been raped and died of blows to the head and suffocation, according to investigators.
She is the third journalist to be murdered in the European Union in less than a year. Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October 2017 while investigating corruption among Malta’s ruling elite. In February, Ján Kuciak, a Slovakian investigative reporter, 27, and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, were shot dead in their home, 40 miles from Bratislava.
The Bulgarian government said it had no evidence that Marinova’s murder was linked to her work. The Bulgarian prime minister, Boyko Borisov, said: “The best criminologists were sent to Ruse, let’s not press them. A large amount of DNA had been obtained.”
The killing turns the spotlight not only on Bulgaria – which is ranked 111th in the world for press freedom, the lowest of any EU state – but also non-EU states including Ukraine, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.
“Physical attacks and death threats against journalists by criminal groups are especially common in Bulgaria,” said Reporters Without Borders, which compiles the World Press Freedom index. In its 2018 survey, the group described corruption and collusion between media, politicians and oligarchs in Bulgaria as widespread.
Reporters Without Borders warned in 2017 about a suspected murder plot against a Bulgarian publisher, Georgi Ezekiev. Bulgarian journalists at Zov News and the Bivol website were investigating a drug-trafficking ring suspected of having links to police when they uncovered the alleged plan to murder Ezekiev, who publishes Zov News. One of the reporters involved in the investigation, Maria Dimitrova, received threatening messages by SMS and Facebook.
The case was raised in June at the Council of Europe, the pan-European organisation to defend democracy and human rights, which is separate to the EU. In response to the charges, the Bulgarian government said Ezekiev and Dimitrova both had the right to take their case to court, but did not specify whether it had taken any action to protect them or press freedom.
The head of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, has called on the Bulgarian authorities “to rapidly conduct a thorough investigation of the horrific killing of investigative reporter Viktoria Marinova”.
In the week before her murder, Marinova presented a TV show that broadcast interviews with reporters from the Bivol website on alleged fraud involving EU funds linked to businessmen and politicians.
Following Marinova’s brutal killing, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s representative for media freedom, Harlem Désir, said there was an increasing trend of attacks against female journalists.
“I will closely follow the investigation opened by the authorities. I urge them to swiftly identify and bring to justice those responsible and to clearly determine whether this attack was linked to her work,” he said.
The EU’s anti-fraud office, Olaf, said it had begun looking into potential misuse of EU funds in Bulgaria but had not yet opened a full investigation.
“Olaf is aware of allegations concerning the possible misuse of EU funds in Bulgaria that have been brought to light by journalists in recent weeks,” a spokesperson said. “It is only after such an initial assessment, which is currently ongoing, that Olaf decides whether or not to open an investigation,” the agency said.
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