in

Call for protection for murdered Bulgarian journalist’s colleagues

Viktoria Marinova

International organisations are calling for a full investigation into the horrific murder of Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova on Saturday, saying also that her colleagues must be given protection.

Marinova, 30, who presented a current affairs programme on the TVN television station, was raped and murdered in broad daylight in the Danube town of Ruse.

Regional prosecutor Georgy Georgiev told a news conference on Sunday that the body of the journalist was found in a park in the city.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the international organisation campaigning for press freedom, called for “a serious and thorough investigation” to find the perpetrators of this “heinous murder”. RSF said Marinova’s colleagues also needed protection.

“We call for police protection to be provided for the TVN journalists who worked with Viktoria Marinova on the same sensitive report, pending the outcome of the investigation,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

The government told the media on Sunday that there was no indication the murder was related to Marinova’s work. “It is about rape and murder,” Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said. At the same time, the police said the possibility that the crime was related to her work was not being excluded.

Marinova’s last report was based on an in-depth story by investigative journalists of the Bivol website on large-scale fraud linked to the misuse of EU funds. Bivol said government statements that the murder was unrelated to the journalist’s investigative work was nothing more than “State propaganda”.

After the subject was first reported three weeks ago, RSF had expressed concern at threats received by Bivol journalists and called for their safety to be guaranteed.

“This murder was committed just a few days after Viktoria Marinova’s sensitive report was broadcast,” said Atanas Tchobanov, co-founder of the Bivol website. “We salute the courage of this journalist, the only one who was brave enough to speak out about the EU funds fraud in a report of this type on the airwaves.”

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) media freedom representative Harlem Desir condemned the killing on Twitter, saying he was “shocked by the horrific murder”.

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova also expressed shock, saying she would follow the investigation and offer the help of EU agencies if needed. “I expect urgent actions to bring those responsible to justice and to clarify if the attack was linked to her work,” she said.

In the World Press Freedom Index compiled by RSF, Bulgaria’s ranking has fallen from year to year and now ranks the lowest of any EU country.

RSF noted in a report published in July this year that investigative journalists were often subjected to various types of pressure: from warnings, intimidation, “Sicilian” messages and defamatory campaigns to physical assaults on them and their property. There have been attempted murders, beatings, cars being set on fire or blown up.

Marinova is the third journalist and the second woman to be murdered in an EU country in less that a year. Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in October 2017 when a bomb exploded under her car and investigative reporter Ján Kuciak was murdered in Slovakia in February this year.

Reacting to Marinova’s murder, Caruana Galizia’s son, Andrew, said: “All three [journalists] were investigating State corruption in the EU’s periphery and faced down hostile States in the pursuit of their work. Whoever gave the order, unless we begin holding States accountable for these murders, there will be more. And the danger will spread to Europe’s heart”.

Disinformation Watch #21: On a public inquiry into a journalist’s death

Get serious about violence against women