Protest Letter Alerts Europe to Attacks on Free Speech in Bulgaria

Society | December 13, 2007, Thursday // 00:00

Bulgarian journalists, working in EU member states, have condemned the abuse of their colleagues in Bulgaria in a protest letter sent to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the heads of state of countries across the bloc.

"Bulgaria is the only European Union member state, where mercenaries hired by underworld bosses and the authorities are persecuting journalists," the letter reads.

It comes shortly after unidentified assaulters beat up a journalist from Monitor daily Assen Yordanov in the Black Sea town of Burgas.

The attack has been linked to Yordanov's investigations into illegal deals with attractive property along the Black Sea coast and the vested interests of the ruling Socialist party and its ethnic Turkish junior coalition partner in Strandzha park. It came just days after the journalist revealed his findings in TV interviews.

The protest letter tracks back previous attacks on free speech in Bulgaria, including the assault against Emil Ivanov, a photo reporter with the Express newspaper in Sofia, who was hit on the head with truncheons as he tried to take pictures of Mladen Mihalev, one of the most prominent underworld figures in Bulgaria. The incident occured just four days before Bulgaria's first elections for MEPs.

A powerful bomb explosion in front of the apartment of the investigative journalist from private Nova TV channel Vassil Ivanov left his house completely demolished on April 5, 2006.

The protest letter insists that Europe's institutions and leaders openly condemn the passivity of the Bulgarian authorities and urges that the criminals are brought to justice.

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