The murder of Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova is the third death of a prominent journalist in the European Union in the last year.

The body of Viktoria Marinova, a 30-year-old Bulgaria TV journalist, was found on Saturday in a park in the border town of Ruse on the Danube River. She was raped and murdered in a manner forensic experts called “an execution.” Marinova just recently reported on alleged corruption involving EU funds last week. Some believe her death may be related to the TV broadcast of her investigation into fraud with EU funds.

Bulgaria’s interior minister Mladen Marinov disclosed there was no proof that anyone threatened the late journalist on account of her work before she was killed. “It is about rape and murder,” he said. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov added the best criminologists in the country are in Ruse to investigate the murder. They are already processing a large amount of DNA evidence related to the killing, he said.

“Her death was caused by blows to the head and suffocation, and her mobile phone, car keys, glasses and some of her clothing were missing,” said Georgy Georgiev, the regional prosecutor in Ruse town.

Was Viktoria Marinova’s Brutal Murder a Warning Message?

Marinova worked with TVN, a TV station in Ruse and one of the most popular in northeastern Bulgaria. She was also a board member with the station. On September 30, Marinova’s current affairs talk program known as “Detector” relaunched and began with a segment where she interviewed two investigative reporters Dimitar Stoyanov and Attila Biro on alleged corruption of EU funds. The fraud was linked to Bulgarian politicians and businessmen.

A TVN reporter who was a colleague with Marinova expressed shock at her death, saying no one was aware if she was under threat in any way. The journalist, who asked not to be named, added that even the TV station was not under threat in any way related to their work. He said the slain journalist was “extremely disciplined, ambitious…and a person with an extreme sense of justice.”

However, others think Marinova’s death was tied to her report. Dimitar Stoyanov is an investigative journalist with the Bivol.bg website and Attila Biro works with the Romanian Rise Project. Asen Yordanov, owner of Bivol.bg stated his media was aware of several threats to its workers, saying many reporters were evidently in danger since Stoyanov appeared on Marinova’s TV show.

“Viktoria’s death, the brutal manner in which she was killed, is an execution. It was meant to serve as an example, something like a warning,” Yordanov said.

Jan Kuciak, Daphne Galizia, Viktoria Marinova… Where is Jamal Khashoggi?

Marinova is the third journalist to be murdered in the EU in the last year. Malta’s most popular investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was killed in a car bomb last October. Slovak’s journalist Jan Kuciak was gunned down in February and now Marinova.

In October 2017, up to two Bulgarian journalists held a peaceful protest in capital Sofia against threats from government officials. The country’s deputy prime minister, Valeri Simeonov, is reported to be breathing down the necks of Bulgaria’s top broadcasters and has accused the major media houses of carrying on a huge smear campaign against his person and political activities.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and press freedom organizations around the world have condemned the slaying of Marinova and called for a full investigation into her murder. Marinova’s murder comes the same week that Washington Post Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented more than 1,400 deaths of journalists and media professionals since 2000.

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