Association of European Journalists: Prosecuting Magistrates Must Rule Out Any Doubt of Retaliation against Journalists


Association of European Journalists:
Prosecuting Magistrates Must Rule Out
Any Doubt of Retaliation against Journalists

June 15 (BTA) - The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) - Bulgaria has called on the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office to give details of a probe on two journalists of Bivol, the investigative journalism website. In recent months, Bivol has published numerous stories against senior politicians who bought flats at below-market prices or benefited from guest houses built on EU money. One of Bivol's most recent investigations was into property deals made by Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov.

It was reported this week that Bivol journalists Atanas Chobanov and Asen Yordanov were being probed following an apparently bogus alert signed by the BOEC association, which denies having emailed it. The association urged the public to support BOEC and Bivol "in the fight against the Mafia and corruption". The alert featured a story published by the "Troud" daily on June 2 which claimed that the two journalists had made lucrative property deals.

As part of the probe, Asen Yordanov was questioned by the police for three hours on Thursday.

BOEC leader Georgi Georgiev explained that also on Thursday, he filed a statement at the police that the alert was a hoax.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the prosecution does not act upon anonymous alerts. Still, the two journalists claim all they know is that the investigation is being conducted by the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office.

In its open letter, AEJ-Bulgaria said: "When such actions are taken against journalists, especially those investigating suspected abuse by senior representatives of the State, including senior prosecuting magistrates, it is absolutely necessary to demonstrate to the public that this is not done in retaliation by the authorities clamping down on inconvenient journalists."

The organization said it had made several failed attempts to contact the prosecution service's spokesperson Roumyana Arnaoudova.

AEJ asked several questions: What is the subject of the probe and what stage has it entered? Why did the two journalists have to be investigated by the Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office instead of by a regional or a district prosecution office at the place of the two journalists' permanent addresses? Is it relevant that the alleged sender of the alert denies having alerted the authorities? Have the prosecutors taken this into account during the probe? Is the Prosecutor General informed about the probe and what is his opinion?

AEJ-Bulgaria will see to it that the journalists' rights are respected, the letter said. IG/DD

Source: Sofia