In October, the murder of a Bulgarian TV journalist Viktoria Marinova caused worldwide condemnation. The case of the journalist, raped and killed in Ruse, northern Bulgaria, was covered in international media. Although it caused quite a fuss, the attention drawn to the topic faded quickly as it was revealed that the murder wasn’t connected to the fraud investigation led by Marinova.
Viktoria Marinova’s body was discovered in a park in a Danube border city of Ruse on October 6. She was killed by blows on the head and suffocation and raped while she was still alive, the authorities said. On October 9, Severin Krassimirov, a 20-year-old Bulgarian national suspected of raping and murdering the journalist was arrested in the German town of Stade. Later in court Krassimirov admitted hitting the woman in the face and throwing her in the bushes before blacking out. He denied, however, raping and robbing her.
According to Bulgarian officials, DNA evidence found on Viktoria Marinova’s body indicated that Krassimirov took part in her killing. Also, items belonging to the victim were found in the suspect’s house.
Recently, there emerged a peculiar detail – Severin Krassimirov was transported to a mental hospital since the Prosecution insisted on psychiatric expertise. As stated by Ruse Mental Center, the suspect is mentally retarded.
Marinova’s murder provoked international condemnation and caused speculation that it might have been a “warning” as she was investigating alleged fraud involving EU funds, high-ranking Bulgarian officials and business persons. In this connection, Bulgaria’s prime minister, Boyko Borisov, launched an attack on journalists and his political opponents.
“I read monstrous things about Bulgaria in the past three days and nothing was true,” he said. “We, as a country, did not deserve to be smeared like this.”
Borisov lashed out at political opponents for “sending emails to Brussels and the United States, as if this is not something that happens in other countries and is an isolated case”.
Despite Borisov’s indignation, it’s no wonder that Bulgarian officials are suspected of being involved in the murder as the country has been ranked the 111th in the world when it comes to press freedom, lower than any other EU state.
Days before her death, Marinova presented her program which involved an interview with two journalists investigating corruption. “Viktoria’s death, the brutal manner in which she was killed, is an execution. It was meant to serve as an example, something like a warning,” said Asen Yordanov, the owner of the investigative website that featured on the program.
Although it seems that Viktoria Marinova’s murder has nothing to do with her work, journalism in the EU has become dreadfully dangerous in recent years. In past October, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a prominent investigative reporter in Malta, was killed in a car bombing. On February 21, the Slovakian investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were murdered at his home in the village Velka Matca, 50km east of Bratislava; the organizers still haven’t been found. The recent case of Jamal Khashoggi shows that no one can feel safe even in the building of a diplomatic mission.
Those who stand behind these crimes know: they have impunity. However, these are only the most famous cases; many journalist murders weren’t covered that broadly. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New-York based organization defending the freedom of the press, at least 43 journalists have been killed in 2018 so far. In 2017, 46 journalists were killed. Journalism has always been a dangerous profession but today those whose illegal activity is targeted by journalists prove to one another that there are no consequences if you “deal with the problem” in such a way. What we should do is to support the people who do their hard and dangerous work and not let their efforts and names be forgotten…
*Marija Bogdanovic is the founder and Executive Director of the Endowment for Public Awareness (EPA).