ROME—The face of 30-year-old Bulgarian investigative journalist Victoria Marinova had been beaten with such brutal force that the popular television journalist was not recognizable. Her semi-nude body was found in a remote area along the River Danube in Ruse, Bulgaria, on Saturday, but it took hours to positively identify her. Initial reports in local Bulgarian media indicated that she had been raped, according to Interior Minister Mladen Marinov. She was also strangled and and suffocated. Her car keys, mobile phone, glasses and much of her clothing had been removed from the remote wooded area.
Marinova is the fourth journalist to be killed in Europe in the last 14 months.
Kim Wall, a Swedish journalist, was decapitated and murdered in August of 2017 during an interview on Peter Madsen’s homemade submarine in Copenhagen. Madsen was convicted of the murder and is serving a life sentence.
In October 2017, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb attack near her home. Several men are on trial for detonating the bomb, but no one has been arrested for masterminding her murder.
In February 2018, Slovakian journalist Jan Kuciak was shot dead with his fiancée in the home they shared. Three people are currently accused of the murder.
Marinova had just inaugurated a new television program called “Detector” on September 30. Her first two guests were journalists who had been arrested for their work. Bulgarian journalist Dimitar Stoyanov and Romanian journalist Attilia had been threatened and arrested for their work investigating allegedly corrupt Bulgarian businesses.
According to the European Council, the two journalists whom Marinova had on her program had uncovered “large-scale and wide-spread corruption in EU-funded projects in Bulgaria worth hundreds of millions of Bulgarian leva.” Their work uncovered the destruction of documents by “a network of consultancy firms linked to large construction companies.”
Bulgarian prosecutor Georgy Georgiev says investigators are now considering whether Marinova’s efforts to expose corruption in Bulgaria were a motive in her murder. Much like Caruana Galizia in Malta, the muckraker had ruffled feathers of the government.
The European Federation of Journalists called for greater protections for investigative journalists across Europe. “This is the fourth brutal murder of a journalist in a Member State of the European Union since 2017,” Ricardo Gutiérrez, the head of the European Federation of Journalists, said in a statement. “The killers and their sponsors obviously aim to intimidate the entire profession.”
The European Federation of Journalists has petitioned the Council of Europe to implement a plan to protect journalists. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir called for a full investigation into the journalist’s murder. “I am shocked by the horrific murder of investigative journalist Viktoria Marinova in Bulgaria,” Désir said in a statement. “I will closely follow the investigation opened by the authorities. I urge them to swiftly identify and bring to justice those responsible and to clearly determine whether this attack was linked to her work.”