Borissov lashes out at EU’s ‘unfair pressure’ over journalist murder

File photo. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov arrives for the European Union's (EU) Informal Heads of State Summit in Salzburg, Austria, 20 September 2018. [Christian Bruna/EPA/EFE]

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on Wednesday (10 October) the murder of journalist Viktoria Marinova was of purely criminal nature and lashed out against what he called “European pressure”, warning that he would raise the issue at the European People’s Party (EPP).

Borissov made his comments during a press conference dedicated to the rape and murder of television journalist Viktoria Marinova, which many in Europe were quick to connect with murders of two other journalists in the EU in the past year.

Officials said a Bulgarian man has been detained in the Germany city of Stade in connection to the crime.

Television journalist's murder shocks Bulgaria

A television journalist has been raped and murdered in Bulgaria’s northern town of Ruse, prosecutors and a minister said Sunday (7 October), in a case that has shocked fellow journalists and sparked international condemnation.

The suspect was identified as Severin Krasimirov from Ruse, who lived near the park where Marinova’s body was found on Saturday. Marinova was raped and murdered in a park in the Bulgarian city of Ruse, where she was jogging.

Krasimirov left the country on Sunday, Bulgarian interior minister Mladen Marinov told reporters.

Police said Krasimirov’s DNA coincided “100%” with that of the perpetrator and added that the smartphone he had stolen from Marinova was found in his Bulgarian home.

Marinova’s murder drew unprecedented media attention on Bulgaria, focusing on the country’s negative press freedom record and abuse of EU funds.

Many reports and comments mentioned Marinova as the third journalist in the EU killed by the mafia in just one year.

Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s best-known investigative blogger, was killed when a bomb blew up her car in October last year and Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak was shot dead in February.

Both murders, although not completely elucidated, appear to be commissioned by the local and international organised crime to silence the journalists.

Unlike her Maltese and Slovak colleague, Marinova was not an investigative journalist and hardly represented a threat to anyone.

As the ongoing investigation confirmed this assumption, Borissov lashed out at the international pressure, and also at Bulgarian influencers, who in his words “helped badmouth the country in the most disgusting way”.

Among others, Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans also assumed that Marinova fell victim in the fight against corruption.

“I deliberately did not answer calls from Brussels. They knocked us down with tweets. We will have a serious discussion in the European Peoples’ Party when I get there”, Borissov said. His GERB party is affiliated to the biggest EU political family.

Borissov may be right in complaining about unfair pressure over Marinova’s case, but the fact remains that Bulgaria is the worst-ranked country in terms of media freedom not only in the EU but also in the Western Balkans.

Bulgaria is last on media freedom in EU and in the Balkans

Bulgaria, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, ranks last among all EU countries in terms of media freedom. It is also the worst in the Western Balkans, a region Sofia hopes to bring closer to the EU.

Bulgaria is also a country where mafia-style killings and shoot-outs remain commonplace and almost always remain unsolved. The last such shoot-out took place in downtown Sofia on 2 October.

Borissov’s critics sometimes dare to point out that he personally comes from the same background. Leaked wires from the US embassy in Sofia confirm that Washington was aware of such information.

The European Commissioner responsible for press freedom is Mariya Gabriel from Bulgaria.

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