Afrique Ameriques Asie Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Bulgaria6 December 2004

Romanian journalist gets off with a fine

George Buhnici, a Romanian journalist with the privately-owned television station Pro TV, was sentenced by a Bulgarian court on 3 December to a fine of about 500 euros for using an unauthorized concealed camera. He had been facing up to three years in prison for the offence, which is regarded as spying in Bulgaria.

24.11.2004 - Free press under attack with Romanian TV journalist charged and BBC reporter investigated

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the threats to investigative journalism posed by Bulgarian decisions to charge Romanian TV journalist TV George Buhnici with using a concealed camera without permission and investigate BBC reporter Justin Rowlatt for the same offence as well as "inciting corruption."

The decision to press charges against Buhnici, who works for the Romanian privately-owned television station Pro TV, was taken by the prosecutor’s office in the northern city of Ruse on 22 November. He faces up to three years in prison. The Sofia prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation against Rowlatt on 19 November.

"Article 339 (a) of Bulgaria’s criminal code, declaring use of a concealed camera to be act of espionage, is absurd and archaic and imposes a disproportionately severe sanction on what is standard practice among investigative journalists," Reporters Without Borders said.

The press freedom organisation said it was also "unacceptable" to accuse journalists of inciting corruption when they work under cover to obtain information of public interest.

"These obstacles to investigative journalism are likely to harm Bulgaria’s image at a time when negotiations to join the European Union are under way," Reporters Without Borders warned.

In a BBC television programme called "Buying the Games," Rowlatt used a hidden camera and passed himself off as a businessman ready to bribe Ivan Slavkov, a Bulgarian member of the International Olympic Committee, in return for support for London’s bid to host the 2012 games. Slavkov took a great interest in Rowlatt’s offers.

According to Pro TV, Buhnici used a concealed camera to film cigarette trafficking in a duty-free shop on the border between Romania and Bulgaria. He was arrested by the Bulgarian authorities on 16 November and released on bail three days later. Bulgarian customs officials seized the camera and film.

Announcing on 22 November that charges are to be pressed against Buhnici, Ruse regional prosecutor Ognyan Basarboliev said no further details would be given about the case until it comes to trial. Buhnici must remain in Bulgaria until the trial is over.

  In this country
13 November - Bulgaria
Former interior minister says “spineless” journalist should be “hit”
29 September - Bulgaria
Threats against Frognews stepped up. Censored website reappears on
24 September - Bulgaria
Vicious assault on editor of Frog News
15 September - Bulgaria
Security agency closes corruption whistle-blower website
29 May - Bulgaria
Police who allegedly beat news photographer to go unpunished

in the annual report
Bulgaria - Annual Report 2008
Bulgaria - Annual report 2007

Europe press releases
4 June - Kosovo
Rrokum TV station still excluded by national broadcasting network
2 June - Ukraine
Potential witness’s death deals severe blow to probe into journalist’s murder
2 June - Turkey
Woman journalist held for past five weeks on baseless charge of link to armed group
2 June - Russia
Journalist seeks asylum in Finland after being convicted for prison torture articles
29 May - France
Regrettable decision by appeal court to lift ban on magazine only if offending photo is covered up

5 February 2009 - Bulgaria
“Resignation or resistance, Bulgaria’s embattled press hesitates”
28 January 2009 - Russia
Fact-finding visit : Moscow double murder may have been linked to November attack on local newspaper editor
27 June 2008 - Turkey
Investigation report into the detention of journalist Haci Bogatekin, imprisoned for more than two months and facing ten and a half years in prison

Sign the petitions
Jusuf Ruzimuradov

Europe archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives