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Bulgaria7 April 2006

Investigators follow professional lead after bomb rips apart journalist’s home

Reporters Without Borders said it was shocked by the violence of an attack on a journalist investigating criminal activity whose Sofia apartment was blown apart by a bomb overnight on 5- 6 April 2006.

The bomb exploded in front of the home of Vassil Ivanov, a journalist on Nova TV. No-one was hurt in the blast but the apartment was completely destroyed and significant damage was done to neighbouring premises and cars parked in front of the building.

The Chairwoman of Nova TV, Silva Zurleva, said it was a miracle that the journalist’s mother, who was in the apartment at the time, had survived the blast.

The journalist was in no doubt about who was behind the criminal act, telling Reporters Without Borders, “It’s our mafia”. He had been receiving regular threats in connection with his investigations into organised crime.

At the end of 2005, he exposed corruption on the part of a notary who sold on stolen cars without checking their documentation. He posed as a buyer to “purchase” cars in this way belonging to the former state prosecutor-general and President Georgi Parvanov.

“We are shocked by the violence of this attack. There is no doubt that those behind it were targeting Vassil Ivanov and his family, who could have been killed in the blast,” said Reporters Without Borders.

“This is a very clear warning to journalists who investigate criminal cases in Bulgaria. We are very concerned for the profession because these methods of intimidation could escalate. The investigators must urgently identify and arrest those responsible for this act,” the organisation said.

Vassil Ivanov had already received several warning letters and emails at his office containing death threats. He immediately informed his editor and the police and used a private security firm for his protection. But for the past few months, there had been no further trouble and he had given up the guards.

He told Reporters Without Borders that he could not see any other possibility than a criminal gang attack because of his work. His latest investigation related to abuse of prisoners in Sofia central prison.

An investigation was immediately opened into the bombing. The regional bureau in the fight against organised crime said it was working on the basis that there was a link between the bomb and the journalist’s reporting. Vassil Ivanov told Reporters Without Borders that he strongly doubted that the investigators would mange to catch those responsible for the bomb blast which almost killed him. He said many journalists who exposed corruption had problems but he told the press that he would not give up his work for all that. He and his family have just moved into another apartment.

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