A broadcast journalist who had been investigating alleged corruption involving European Union funds has been found raped and murdered, but it is unclear whether her death is in connection with her work.
The body of Viktoria Marinova was found over the weekend in Bulgaria’s northern city of Ruse near an alley.
— Ricardo Gutiérrez (@Molenews1) October 7, 2018
She worked for a popular local TV station, TVN, which noted in a statement that it was experiencing “great pain and insurmountable grief”.
According to a Deutsche Welle report, regional prosecutor Georgy Georgiev said preliminary investigations show Marinova suffered blunt force trauma to the head and was suffocated.
Her belongings including a cell phone, car keys, glasses and articles of clothing were missing, Georgiev added.
Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Mladen Mladenov confirmed that Marinova was raped before she was killed, describing her death as “exceptionally brutal”. But Mladenov claimed that there was no evidence that her death had any connection to her work. “It is about rape and murder,” he said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists EU (CPJ) has called Marinova’s death “barbaric” and has called for Bulgaria to “employ all efforts and resources to carry out an exhaustive inquiry and bring to justice those responsible.”
In a statement released by CPJ, Marinova had interviewed two journalists who had been looking into allegations of fraud involving the European Union and a global investigating reporting platform.
Authorities are in the process of identifying witnesses and establishing a motive for murder, CNN reported.
The country’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is confident that Marinova’s killer would be apprehended and brought to justice, adding that the “best criminologists were sent to Ruse” and “a large amount of DNA has been obtained”.
Marinova is the third journalist to have died in the European Union over the past year, and the fourth since the start of 2017.
Investigative Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak was shot in the head, and a critic of Malta’s government, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was killed in a grisly car explosion.
Bulgaria is ranked 111 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom index.