Rape and Murder of Bulgarian Journalist Raises Questions of Press Freedom, Violence Against Women 


Bulgarian authorities say that the rape and murder of journalist Viktoria Marinova don’t appear to be related to her work, despite international concerns about rising dangers for reporters working to uncover corruption.

As the New York Times explained earlier this week, 30-year-old Marinova was the host of a new show, “Detector,” where she interviewed investigative journalists about their latest efforts; her murder immediately rang alarm bells: “Two reporters in the European Union — Jan Kuciak in Slovakia and Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta — have been killed in the past year because of the work they were doing to expose graft at the highest levels of government,” the Times noted. A report by The Center for the Study of Democracy suggested that one in five adults in Bulgaria has taken or paid a bribe, and press freedom is hard to come by:

At the same time, the number of independent media outlets reporting on corruption has fallen. The Union of Publishers in Bulgaria, in a report issued in May, found that “growing collusion between publishers, oligarchs and political parties during the past decade has resulted in a major decline in the press freedom.”
Teodor Zahov, the organization’s president, said in a statement, “The pressure on independent media has been systematic for the past 10 years.”
“It is so sophisticated and lacking in transparency that some people don’t understand it and others don’t believe it,” he said.

The Washington Post reported, however:

But early Wednesday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Interior Minister Mladen Marinov told reporters that investigators had interviewed her family, colleagues and friends and found that “there is no apparent link to her work.”
The man, whom authorities identified as Severin Krasimirov, from Ruse, was born in 1997 and had a criminal record that dated back to 2007, including charges of theft. According to Bulgarian officials, Krasimirov fled the scene and headed to Germany, where he was ultimately apprehended. Initial lab results linked his DNA to samples found at the crime scene, authorities said.

If Bulgarian authorities are correct, this story appears to be one of violence so sadly familiar that it’s practically mundane. Marinova was running in a local park when she was attacked, the same as Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa and Wendy Martinez in D.C. and the three female runners murdered within 9 days in the summer of 2016.

And press freedom and corruption aren’t the nation’s only endemic issues: “In this situation it’s necessary to analyze in depth the problems in Bulgaria connected to violence against women,” said a statement from the Association of European Journalists — Bulgaria. Just this year, the government refused to ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention fighting violence against women, on the grounds it was unconstitutional.

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