AEJ-Bulgaria is concerned about a case of pressure applied on a Bulgarian journalist

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АЕЖ-България

The Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria (AEJ-Bulgaria) is deeply concerned about a case of direct pressure applied on the Bulgarian journalist Spas Spassov. Spassov, who is a correspondent of the online media Dnevnik.bg and the weekly newspaper Capital in the Bulgarian city Varna, received as a present Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” with a note quoting the book: “You’d better avoid the ones who you cannot make friends with, neither you can conquer them”.

The note was signed by Marin Mitev, a co-owner of TIM Holding– one of the most powerful economic groups in Bulgaria, related to a controversial investment project in Varna’s biggest park the Sea Garden. Spas Spassov has been continuously reporting and investigating on the project that provoked numerous protests of Varna’s citizens.
AEJ insists that the public authorities investigate the case of Mr. Spassov because we are convinced that regardless of the fact that the message he received does no contain explicit threat, it is a clear attempt of intimidating a journalist and forcing him to stay silent. Thus, we believe that the state authorities are obliged to make it clear whether the sender indeed was Mr. Mitev and if the result of the investigation is positive – to start a legal procedure according to the Bulgarian Penal Code.
We would like to stress that the case of Mr. Spassov is not the single attempt of putting limits to the freedom of speech, related to TIM Holding. In 2009, a group of journalists – both from Varna and correspondents of national media, published a declaration in which they refuse to cover the civil protests against the investment project for Alley One of the Sea Garden. The project is related to TIM. Although the journalist’s provoked massive public outrage, it did not become clear whether it was resulting from pressure, applied on the journalists who signed it, or it was their own initiative.
Yet, the above mentioned case, as well as the one of Mr.  Spassov, are a reason for our deep concern about the independence of the journalists in Varna. It is highly probable that other colleagues from the coastal city have also been put under pressure or intimidation, but they have refused to give publicity to such cases.
We believe that the development of Varna is a matter not only of national, but also of European interest and therefore we encourage the national and international media to give light to problems of the city. This can be made possible by journalists’ investigations, uniting the forces of local journalists and international correspondents, who are less likely to be influenced.