Press freedom groups have expressed their shock over the rape and brutal murder of a Bulgarian TV journalist whose last aired report had been about the arrest of two investigative reporters.
Victoria Marinova’s body was found at about midday on Saturday near a river bank in the town of Ruse, northern Bulgaria. She had been raped, beaten and strangled to death, according to local media reports.
Marinova, 30, worked as an administrative director for the TVN local television network. She had just started her own news talk show called “Detector”, broadcast on Facebook on 1 October.
Bulgarian Police have said they are looking at “all versions” of the motive behind her murder, but that it was unclear if her death was related to her work, according to news website Balkan Insight.
The regional prosecutor of Ruse, Georgui Georguiev, has told press that her death was caused by blows on the head and suffocation.
“Her mobile phone, car keys, glasses and part of her clothes were missing,£ he said. “There is no information to indicate that the crime was committed by more than one person.”
In her final report, Marinova had interviewed Romainian journalist Atila Biro from investigative news website Rise Project and Bulgarian journalist Dimitar Stoyanov from investigative news site Bivol.
Both men had been arrested and detained by Bulgarian police last month.
They had been looking into allegations of fraud involving European Union funding for the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
CPJ EU representative Tom Gibson said: “CPJ is shocked by the barbaric murder of journalist Victoria Marinova. Bulgarian authorities must employ all efforts and resources to carry out an exhaustive inquiry and bring to justice those responsible.”
International Federation of Journalists general secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Yet again a journalist covering corruption has been callously murdered. Investigative journalism in Europe is increasingly under threat.
“It is time for states to act. No stone must be left unturned in the pursuit of her killers – there must be no impunity.”
Marinova is the fourth journalist to be killed within the European Union since 2017.
Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak was shot dead in February this year in Slovakia. Investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in October 2017 near her home in Malta.
Swedish freelance Kim Wall was killed by Danish inventor Peter Madsen on his submarine in August last year. He has since been given a life sentence.
Ricardo Gutierrez, general secretary of the European Federation of Journalists, sister organisation to the IFJ, said: “The killers and their sponsors obviously aim to intimidate the entire profession.
“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.”