A 30-year old Bulgarian TV journalist, Victoria Marinova, was brutally raped and murdered in Bulgaria last week. Her body was found on 6 October near a river bank in Ruse, northern Bulgaria. She is the third journalist to have been murdered in Europe in just over a year and had just relaunched her TV show highlighting investigations that uncovered cases of corruption.
Reports so far state that they are unsure as to whether her murder is connected to her work at the local TV station, TVN. The prosecutor said that Marinova was raped, beaten and then suffocated before being dumped in a park near the banks of the Danube river. The regional prosecutor of Ruse has said that her death was caused by blows to the head and suffocation. He also said that Marinova’s mobile phone car keys, glasses and part of her clothes were missing, but that, “there is no information to indicate that the crime was committed by more than one person.” There is now an investigation being carried out into her personal and professional life.
Ms Marinova was a presenter on a current affairs talk show called “Detector” for TVN. The show had recently been relaunched, and the last show she filmed before her death was an interview with two journalists who had been detained for investigating alleged corruption involving EU funds. On September 30 she interviewed the journalists on her show about the investigation that revealed companies involved in EU-funded infrastructure projects administered by local authorities. Their investigation alleged that 30-40 percent of funding received by a group of companies was lost to corruption and bribes.
Atanas Tchobanov, an editor at Bulgarian investigative portal Bivol.bg. says that Marinova’s next assignment was to visit a site in the Bulgarian village of Hitrino where ‘questions have been raised over a public procurement contract.’
European journalists under attack?
A shocking seven journalists have been killed since 2017 in Europe and of those seven, four were women. In October 2017 Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb near her home. In another brutal case, journalist Jan Kuciak was shot dead with a single fatal gunshot wound alongside his fiancée in his native Slovakia in February this year. Daphne reported on corruption and money laundering in Malta and published numerous articles based on the Panama Papers. Jan was also an investigative journalist known for uncovering cases of corruption and tax evasion.
Victoria’s death has drawn international condemnation. Including a statement from Europe’s OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative for the OSCE said in a tweet on 7 October,
“Shocked by horrific murder of investigative journalist Viktoria Marinova in Bulgaria,”
“Urgently call for a full and thorough investigation. Those responsible must be held to account.”
In 2017, UNESCO recorded the highest number of women journalists killed since 2006. The percentage of women media professionals killed worldwide last year rose to 14% from 4% in 2012. The Director General of UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization), Audrey Azoulay, has also issued a statement, saying,
“I condemn the murder of Victoria Marinova,”
“Attacks on journalists erode the fundamental human right to freedom of expression and its corollaries, press freedom and free access to information. Moreover, the use of sexual and physical abuse to silence a woman journalist is an outrage against the dignity and basic human rights of every woman.”
In Bulgaria, and the world, the response has been serious concern over press freedom, as some campaigners feared the case may involve a cover up.
Press freedom campaigners in Bulgaria had planned a protest on the banks of the river Danube, near where her body was found. However, in a statement on their website, TVN have called for calm and have asked demonstrators to call off their protest as they are ‘opposed to such actions’ and stating that ‘Victoria would not have liked it’. In the same statement they also announced a call for information from citizens.
Calling on a response from the international community, Ricardo Gutierrez, general secretary of the European Federation of Journalists said,
“We call on European governments to support without any delay the IFJ proposal for an International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and to implement the Council of Europe Recommendation on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.”
“States cannot remain passive following such an outburst of violence.”