BULGARIA: SEEMO calls on Bulgarian authorities to reopen investigation into attacks against prominent journalist

BULGARIA, BULGARIA, 03/08/2017, 06:30

After two months of investigation, the public prosecutor of Bulgaria’s Dupnitsa region concluded that arsonists who gutted the car of award-winning investigative journalist Lidia Pavlova were persons unknown, and closed the probe.  Pavlova’s family car was set on fire on 25 May, 2012 in the town of Dupnitsa, where she resides. The incident marked the second time her car had been destroyed. Her 22-year-old son, Ivan, who has been attacked several times, reportedly as a form of pressure on Pavlova, was driving the car on the night of the latest incident.

When she learned that yet another aggression would go unpunished, Pavlova said, as quoted by the Sofia-based daily 24 Tchassa, “I know who ordered and executed the latest attacks.” She claims to have a witness who is too scared to testify in front of the police.

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), calls on Bulgaria’s authorities to reopen the case and investigate all attacks against Pavlova, who specialises in investigating organised crime in southwest Bulgaria. She formerly worked for the Blagoevgrad-based daily Struma, and is currently editor-in-chief of the regional daily Vjara.  Pavlova has investigated the so-called “Galevi brothers”, local businessmen who have been the subject of several criminal trials. As SEEMO reported, she has received a number of threats since trials against the Galevi brothers and their alleged accomplices began.

In November 2008, her son Ivan Pavlov was beaten and his eardrum was broken after he supposedly spilled water on the shoe of a bodyguard of the Galevi brothers.  After a two month detention, the bodyguard received a conditional sentence.

On 16 May, 2009, hours after the initial trial against the Galevi brothers and their alleged accomplices commenced, the rear windshield of Pavlova’s car was smashed and police found a bullet inside the car.

On 1 January, 2010, an assailant severely beat Ivan Pavlov at a local establishment where the young man was celebrating the New Year with his girlfriend. Ivan Pavlov sustained severe injuries to the head and spent three days in the intensive care unit of the local hospital following the assault. The perpetrator was detained, and convicted.

On 22 January, 2010, someone slashed the tires of Lidia Pavlova’s company care. The windshield of her car was smashed several times during that year as well as in 2011, but Pavlova did not report all the incidents. She also did not report the burning of her mailbox on 27 May, 2012.

Pavlova is the recipient of a 2010 SEEMO-CEI Special Diploma for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism and the 2009 Award for Courage in Journalism presented by the WAZ Media Group and the International Federation of Journalists.

So far, most reported attacks and threats against Pavlova have gone unpunished. In fact, combating organised crime is proving a challenge to Bulgaria. A European Commission report (REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL: On Progress in Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism) stated in July 2012:  “Systemic failures in law enforcement were recently demonstrated after two prominent convicts escaped enforcement of their prison sentence. The Bulgarian authorities failed to apprehend some of the most senior criminals of the country after an announced verdict was handed down by court. This must be seen as a major failure of the system.”

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said: “In April 2012, a SEEMO delegation met Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Bulgaria’s minister of the interior and deputy prime minister and raised concerns regarding Pavlova’s safety. The minister said he believed that another incident with Lidia Pavlova would not happen due to the high-profile nature of the trial against the Galevi brothers. I hope that Minister Tzvetanov, in cooperation with the ministry of justice, reopens the investigation, and all the perpetrators of different attacks against Pavlova are found and brought to justice.”

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