Journalists in Bulgaria Attacked by Criminals and Prosecutors

Published: 13 April 2023

Bulgaria Prosecutor GeneralBriefing of the prosecutor general Ivan Geshev (2nd left) showing communication between Stoyanov and his source Dilyan Georgiev, who was arrested. (Photo: Bulgaria's Prosecutor's Office Press Center/Facebook, screenshot, License)

By Vinicius Madureira

Both a suspected member of a criminal group as well as Bulgaria State Prosecutor’s Office have launched attacks against investigative journalists who exposed how a suspected drug dealer had bribed police officials and how he was controlling the import of food at a border crossing.

A person close to the suspected drug lord and organized crime boss, Christophoros Amanatidis, also known as Taki, has filed six lawsuits against journalists Dimitar Stoyanov, Atanas Tchobanov, and Nikolay Marchenko after they published two investigations.

The first claimed that Taki had monopolized control over the import of food and truck parking at the EU’s biggest border crossing "Kaptain Andreevo," thereby depriving the state budget of millions in tax revenue.

The second report was about Taki having bribed police to cover up the murder of a wanted crypto queen. Taki’s associate, Razmig Chakaryan, also known as Ami, filed the lawsuits requesting over US$5,500 for each of them.

At the same time, Bulgaria’s Attorney General Ivan Geshev started a defamatory campaign against Stoyanov, claiming that the reporter was plotting against him and other high-ranking police officers who were exposed in the story, including Michail Naumov, the head of the homicide department at the Bulgarian National Police.

Last month, Stoyanov’s Bureau for Investigative Reporting and Data (BIRD) published a story alleging that a document found in the safe of a murdered police chief revealed that Ruja Ignatova, known for the notorious OneCoin fraud, had been killed on a yacht in the Ionian Sea, and that the crime boss had bribed Naumov and others to cover up his criminal activities and leak sensitive information to him.

The prosecutors have acknowledged the existence of the document in the criminal case of the police chief’s murder. However, they do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to launch an investigation into either Ruja’s murder or corruption among police officers and consider the BIRD article part of a plot against them.

The prosecutor’s office went as far as releasing photos of Stoyanov’s conversations with one of his sources who is being held as a suspect for drug possession. The person was arrested shortly before he was about to give an interview to Stoyanov about the role of a person close to Taki and named in the documents.

The Bulgarian branch of the Association of European Journalists considers this action "scandalous," which not only endangers Stoyanov but also serves as a warning to every journalist and their sources.

The Association expresses deep concern about the attacks against the BIRD journalists and believes that these lawsuits are part of a broad tactic to silence, intimidate, and financially drain newsrooms worldwide with so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs).

The statement emphasizes the importance of the work of journalists in the public interest, their need to communicate with various sources, including those who may be under investigation or convicted, and the importance of building trust with sources. It also highlights the right of journalists to choose how they communicate with their sources.