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Bulgaria23 February 2007

Acid threat against journalist

Reporters Without Borders said it was shocked to learn that two men walked up to journalist Maria Nikolayeva’s office in the weekly Politika on 9 February and threatened to throw acid in her face if she continued to write about a real estate development project in the Strandzha national park, Bulgaria’s largest protected area.

A story by Nikolayeva and Burgas-based journalist Assen Yordanov headlined “The crusade against Strandzha” had just been published in that day’s issue. After eluding the magazine’s security, the two men told her: “You know full well that you shouldn’t write things like this. And you know what happens to curious journalists, they get acid thrown at them.”

“We are outraged by the use of this type of threat, especially as there have been terrible precedents in Bulgaria,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The fight against corruption is a fundamental issue that Bulgaria faces and the authorities, including the European authorities must urgently mobilise all available resources to combat these criminal practices.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We call on the Bulgarian police authorities to take this situation seriously and to act in accordance with their responsibilities.”

After reporting the incident to the police, Nikolayeva went ahead and wrote her planned follow-up story, which was published on 16 February. The issue containing the story was not however distributed in Burgas - the administrative centre of the region where Stradzha is located - as an unidentified person bought up all the available copies from the distributor in Burgas.

Nikolayeva told Reporters Without Borders she had been very scared but as a journalist she had no choice but to publish the second part of her investigative report. Asked about the frequency of this kind of intimidation in Bulgaria, she said journalists unfortunately had to face it quite often.

Sulphuric acid was thrown at Anna Zarkova of the Troud daily newspaper at a bus-stop on 11 May 1998 after she received threats about her coverage of forced prostitution and different kinds of trafficking. She still works as a journalist.

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