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Area: 110,910
Population: 7,965,000.
Language: Bulgarian.
Head of state: Georgi Parvanov.

Bulgaria - Annual report 2007

Reforms were introduced in preparation for the country’s entry into the European Union on 1 January 2007. Meanwhile organised crime and corruption are priority problems that undermine Bulgarian society and affect the work of journalists.

Organised crime is a huge problem in Bulgaria, with corruption and money-laundering so pervasive that they affect the whole society and hamper the work of journalists. A bomb went off in front of the Sofia home of Vasil Ivanov, of the Nova TV station, early on 6 April, destroying the apartment but causing no casualties. Ivanov’s mother was in at the time but miraculously survived.

Investigators suspected the blast was connected with Ivanov’s work. He had received regular death threats during the previous year because of his reporting on enquiries into organised crime and had to have bodyguards. At the end of 2005, he had reported on a solicitor who certified stolen vehicle sales without checking the relevant papers. Ivanov had obtained proof by “purchasing” vehicles belonging to the former prosecutor-general and even President Georgy Parvanov.

Access to public information generally improved in 2006. After declassification of a first spate of Communist-era material (halted in 2002 at NATO’s request), the government said it was opening up nearly 250,000 files as their legal confidentiality expired. Interior minister Rumen Petkov said on 20 May that several journalists, including Nova TV’s political commentator, Georgy Koritarov, and former presenter Kevork Kevorkian, had been recruited by the communist secret police in the 1970s.

Koritarov admitted he had worked with the secret police, especially in fact-finding missions to Yugoslavia, China, Romania and Albania. But Tocho Tochev (editor of the daily Trud) and freelance journalist Angelina Petrova, who were also accused of collaboration, protested and won a letter of apology from the ministry, as did two other journalists (Ivo Inzhev and Ivan Garelov) wrongly suspected of belonging to the secret police.

These sensational revelations revived the heated debate on the subject. The prime minister favoured destroyed the archives but on 6 December parliament voted to extensively open up the files and even post online the names of politicians, judges, diplomats and journalists who had been agents or had worked with the espionage and counter-espionage services until July 1991, when these bodies were disbanded. The names of department heads up til July 1990 will also be released. But none of the exposed people will be prosecuted.

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