Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) in a letter to Rumen Radev, President of Bulgaria has expressed concern over the arrest of two journalists for investigating a scam in EU-funded projects in Bulgaria and Romania.
PPF Secretary General Owais Aslam Ali in his letter, has urged the authorities and security forces to stop targeting journalists for their work.
According to International Press Institute (IPI), Dimitar Stoyanov, a reporter for Bivol (an investigative journalism website in Bulgaria) and Attila Biro of the RISE Project (a non-profit journalism organization in Romania) were detained by authorities in Radomir for several hours. They were held for attempting to prevent and document the destruction of evidence related to the inquiry funded by IPI’s #IJ4EU grant programme.
Bivol released a report on September 10, which spoke about “large-scale and wide-spread corruption” in EU-funded projects in Bulgaria worth hundreds of millions of Bulgarian leva. The report was based on the contents of accounting documents from “a network of consultancy firms linked to large construction companies.”
The editor-in-chief of Bivol, Atanas Tchobanov, told IPI that they received a tip-off that the GP Group, one of the organizations mentioned in the report, was removing equipment and documents from its headquarters in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. Tchobanov said that they also informed the authorities but nothing was done.
On September 13, Bivol was informed that the destroyed material had been found near Radomir. They again informed the authorities and then the journalists Stoyanov and Biro reached the spot where they found the destroyed documents and other evidence.
The local police than arrived on the spot and detained Stoyanov and Biro. The two showed their press cards but the police refused to release them. Police also seized their cell phones without giving them a chance to inform their colleagues. The journalists were released in the early hours of September 14. The head of Bulgaria’s anti-mafia police later apologized for the incident.