For the first time Bulgaria’s interior Ministry admitted that police officers have used unauthorized violence against journalist Dimiter Kenarov during a wave of anti-government rallies in 2020. Kenarov had been beaten, handcuffed and arrested illegally, states a letter sent to AEJ-Bulgaria and the Anti-Corruption Fund on September 30, 2021 and signed by the caretaker interior minister Boyko Rashkov.
In June 2021 Rashkov launched a new internal probe into the case. It has identified “a number of violations of the professional discipline by senior and other employees” of the police headquarters in Sofia and Plovdiv , which have been filed to the disciplinary authorities in charge. In addition to that, “taking into account the existing evidence” ”, the case has been forwarded to the Sofia Regional Prosecutor’s Office”.
AEJ-Bulgaria and the Anti-Corruption Fund call on prosecutors to take immediate action in relation to the findings of interior minister’s second investigation into the unlawful arrest and beating of our colleague Dimiter Kenarov.
The letter comes shortly after Sega Weekly announced that a senior prosecutor upheld an earlier decision not to investigate the police’s actions against Kenarov.
In the first days after the assault against Kenarov AEJ expressed concerns that the probe into the case would not be objective taking into account public statements made by senior officials from the interior Ministry.
The conclusions of the second internal investigation have come to confirm our doubts. Unfortunately, it seems like protection of fundamental rights such as integrity of the person and freedom of expression which are enshrined in the Constitution, depends on the political situation, rather than respecting the law.
Dimiter Kenarov was arrested on September 2, 2020 while covering an anti-government protest which turned violent. Despite identifying himself as a reporter multiple times, he was taken away by three police officers and was subjected to violence while being handcuffed. The next morning a forensic doctor confirmed his injuries and bruises.
AEJ-Bulgaria along with a number of international press freedom groups have called for a fair and independent investigation. However, over a year after the accident, many questions about the attack remain unanswered.