Suspect Arrested in Killing of Bulgarian Journalist

A vigil for murdered television reporter Viktoria Marinova

Viktoria Marinova, a 30-year-old Bulgarian journalist who had recently become the anchor of a talk show focused on investigative reporting, was raped and killed on Saturday in a case that has sent shockwaves through Europe.

Prosecutors said she had been raped and beaten with such force that her face was unrecognisable.

News agency reports about the killing were carried on several prominent worldwide media, which cited other murders of journalists in European countries in 2018.

The media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called for a "full and thorough" investigation into Marinova's slaying.

The Interior Ministry said late Monday that prosecutors had opened an investigation into GP Group, a large private Bulgarian building company alleged to have misused the European Union money, and froze 14 million euros ($16 million) of its assets.

A child lights candles next to a portrait of Viktoria Marinova
A child lights candles next to a portrait of Viktoria Marinova

Interior minister Mladen Marinov said Monday there was no evidence to suggest the killing was linked to Marinova's work.

A Bulgarian news site, Rusemedia.bg, said Marinova may have been jogging at the time, training for an upcoming road race. Reporters Without Borders said they were arrested after taking pictures of evidence tied to the misuse of European Union money by Bulgarian firms. "With great pain and insurmountable grief the TVN's team is experiencing the loss of our beloved colleague Victoria Marinova and we pray for sympathy to the sorrow of her relatives and colleagues", TVN said in a short statement.

"All leads are being looked at" in the crime investigation including possible links to her professional activity, chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said Monday.

In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, mourners gathered outside a church. One participant, Kristina Petkov, said Bulgarians now had "zero" trust in authorities.

It is not ultimately known if Marinova's murder is linked to her journalism work.

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The press office of the European anti-fraud unit OLAF said it was "aware of allegations concerning possible misuse of EU funds in Bulgaria that have been brought to light by journalists in recent weeks". The journalists - Dimitar Stoyanov, from the Bulgarian website Bivol, and Atilla Biro, a Romanian journalist from the Rise Project - were briefly detained by local authorities in mid-September.

She had recently reported on an investigation into alleged corruption involving European Union funds and made her last appearance on TV on 30 September - the debut episode of a relaunched current affairs programme called Detector.

"We are now following a European arrest procedure".

He quoted Mr Juncker as saying previously that "too many" journalists are being intimidated, attacked or murdered and "there is no democracy without a free press".

The German government has sharply condemned the killing of a Bulgarian journalist, calling it "a brutal and terrible murder".

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"First Malta, then Slovakia, now Bulgaria".

United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that Guterres was "very concerned" about Marinova's slaying and awaited the conclusions of the investigation into her killing.

Violence against women has also been widespread in Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee rights group said 19 women have already been killed in the country so far this year as a result of abuse. "So, absolutely no version is underestimated", he said, according to state media. A Maltese investigative reporter was killed in a vehicle bomb in October a year ago, and a Slovak journalist was shot dead in February.

In outlining its concerns for the climate journalists face in the Balkan country, Reporters Without Borders laid part of the blame on the government.

Kim Wall, a Swedish journalist, was decapitated in August 2017 while conducting an interview on a submarine owned by inventor Peter Madsen, who was later convicted of the crime.

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