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Bulgaria13 November 2008

Former interior minister says “spineless” journalist should be “hit”

Reporters Without Borders is dismayed that former interior minister Rumen Petkov publicly insulted journalist Jurgen Roth and called for violence against him on 11 November, less than a month after Ognyan Stefanov, the editor of the news website Frognews, was seriously injured in a murder attempt.

“We are outraged by Rumen Petkov’s irresponsible comments,” Reporters Without Borders said. “His call for violence was unacceptable and unworthy of a European politician. Does he have to be reminded that less than a month ago, Ognyan Stefanov, had two legs and an arm broken when he was beaten with a hammer and a steel bar, and that it was a miracle he survived. Petkov cannot be unaware of the import of his words in the present context.”

The press freedom organisation added : “We remind Petkov that he has many other ways to debate publicly and democratically with journalists. We urge him to immediately retract his threats against Roth.”

In an article headlined “Hit the slanderer in the mouth” in the 11 November issue of the privately-owned daily 24 Chasa, Petkov said of Roth : “The liar, the slanderer, the spineless swindler must be hit in the mouth, the hands and all parts of his body.” The tirade by Petkov, a parliamentary representative of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), was prompted by Roth’s book, “The new Bulgarian demons,” that has just been published in Sofia.

Interviewed the next day for the morning political programme Koritarov Live on Nova TV, Roth said : “No, I am not afraid of Mr. Petkov. Such comments are a good illustration of his intellectual qualities. It is unfortunate that such a man was Bulgaria’s interior minister. We must nor forget that outspoken journalists have been beaten or killed in the past. Such comments sound like an appeal for the same kind of action. It is a disgrace that Mr. Petkov spoke in this manner.”

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