Bulgarian Journalists Facing 'Disgraceful Attacks' By Top Officials

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the Bulgarian authorities to stop trying to intimidate journalists, who the watchdog says are subjected to "personal and offensive" verbal attacks and threats by very senior officials.

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the Bulgarian authorities to stop trying to intimidate journalists, who the watchdog says are subjected to "personal and offensive" verbal attacks and threats by very senior officials.

In a statement on February 13, Pauline Ades-Mevel, the head of RSF's EU and Balkans desk, said European Parliament President David Sassoli should "clearly condemn these disgraceful attacks," saying the bloc "cannot allow journalists to be threatened in such an institutional and systematic manner" in a member state.

At a press conference in Sofia on February 4, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov likened journalists to turkeys and, in an attempt to mock them, tried to imitate the gobbling of a turkey for a few seconds, the Paris-based media watchdog said.

The next day in Brussels, Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev turned on the editor of the investigative news website Bivol, whose articles have suggested that the official has been involved in questionable transactions.

Instead of responding to Atanas Tchobanov's questions, Geshev started putting questions to the journalist that showed he had information about his private life.

Meanwhile, a Bulgarian member of the European Parliament, Aleksandr Yordanov, called Tchobanov a "little provocateur" when the journalist asked him a about a case of corruption in which one of his colleagues is allegedly involved.

And on February 11, Bulgarian National Assembly deputy speaker Valeri Simeonov accused two journalists with the commercial TV channel bTV of being "corrupt" and asked prosecutors to investigate them for failing to report alleged links between the owner of online casino Efbet and gambling czar Vasil Bozhkov, who has recently been arrested on charges on charges of tax fraud, attempted bribery, and organized crime.

The bTV Media Group defended its reporters, Venelin Petkov and Anton Hekimyan, saying that "the journalist's role is to report the truth after verifying and investigating."

"Bulgaria has been experiencing a serious media crisis for the past decade because many media outlets are owned by just a few oligarchs and journalists are constantly subjected to harassment," according to RSF.

The country ranks 111th out of 180 countries listed on RSF's World Press Freedom Index -- the lowest ranking of any EU member state.

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