28 Jun 2018 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 16 Oct 2017 Bulgaria

Bulgarian Investigative Journalist's Car Set on Fire following Warnings about TV Reports

Source of threatUnknown
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner AEJ CPJ EFJ/IFJ
Partner AEJ CPJ EFJ/IFJ
On 4 October 2017, a car belonging to Zornitsa Akmanova, a reporter for the TV programme ‘Lords of the Air’, was set on fire in the central Bulgarian town Karlovo. The ‘Lords of the Air’ programme sets out to expose and confront cases of fraud and other dishonest business practices. On the following day, the owner of a local car garage, Plamen Dimitrov, was arrested in connection with the attack on Ms Akmanova’s car. Just a few hours before the arson, the local authorities had closed down Mr Dimitrov’s garage business. Police intervention was prompted by high-profile TV reports by Ms Akmanova alleging Mr Dimitrov’s involvement in a number of acts of fraud against clients. Ms Akmanova has stated that she had previously received several threats warning her to stop reporting on Mr Dimitrov’s activities.

On 9 October, Mr Dimitrov was released on bail after being charged on a single count of fraud against a client. No charges have been brought in connection with the burning of Ms Akmanova’s car or the threats she has received. Bulgarian media report that following a number of previous claims made by local people against Mr Dimitrov, three local prosecutors have dropped the investigations on account of his reported relationship with a senior official in the Karlovo municipality. Subsequently those cases were re-directed to the regional prosecutors in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, but prosecutors there have also declined to carry out investigations against the garage owner.

The destruction of Zornitsa Akmanova’s car follows threats and acts of violence against other journalists working for ‘Lords of the Air’. In the recent past another reporter for the progamme, Eva Veselinova, was physically assaulted while filming an investigation into alleged fraudulent practices at a construction company. A third reporter, Dimitar Varbanov, received threats related to his investigations of the activities of a local businessman.
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