Bulgaria: Mystery thugs maul reporter

July 26, 1999

His Excellency Petar Stoyanov
President of the Republic of Bulgaria
VIA FAX: 011 359 2 875 601/011 359 2 822 574

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly alarmed by the June 28th assault on journalist Alexei Lazarov in Sofia.

Lazarov, a media reporter for the popular independent weekly Kapital, was attacked outside his home at approximately 1 a.m. by three unidentified assailants armed with knives and clubs. He suffered numerous abrasions and a broken leg, yet none of his personal belongings were taken. Assuming it would take too long for the ambulance to arrive, Lazarov decided to drive himself to the hospital. During a two-and-a-half hour operation, doctors implanted a metal plate in the joint of his right leg. He spent nearly three weeks in hospital and is still recuperating from the attack.

The assault appears to have been connected to Lazarov’s journalism. In late June, he published an article analyzing local media coverage of the privatization of the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC). The piece criticized deputy prime minister Evgenii Bakardzhiev, who oversaw the privatization process, for repeatedly misleading the public and the press regarding the expected completion date for the project.

The article followed a series of others in Kapital that accused Bakardzhiev of favoritism in his selection of potential buyers for the company. According to Lazarov, Bakardzhiev was incensed by the charges. In a detailed account of the attack, published in the July 3rd edition of Kapital, editor Ivo Prokopiev also highlighted the tense relationship between Bakardzhiev and the newspaper as a possible reason for the attack.

CPJ understands that your government has enlisted the support of the Bulgarian National Combat Service against Organized Crime in investigating the attack. We are hopeful that this will lead to the prompt capture and arrest of the assailants.

However, CPJ is dismayed that the May 11, 1998 attack against Anna Zarkova, a journalist from the daily Trud, is still unresolved. Zarkova had received numerous threats for her coverage of organized crime and political corruption in Bulgaria. Last spring, a group of unknown assailants threw acid in her. Zarkova survived, but has spent the last year undergoing a painful series of treatments to repair her damaged skin. The sight in her left eye will never be fully restored.

The only suspect in the case was recently acquitted. The inability of the Bulgarian criminal justice system to find and prosecute her assailant raises serious questions about your country’s commitment to press freedom.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues around the world, CPJ condemns these vicious assaults against these two journalists. Such violence fosters a climate of fear and violates all international norms of press freedom. As a signatory of several international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Bulgaria has pledged to guarantee that journalists can freely and safely pursue their profession. We urge you to investigate the Lazarov and Zarkova cases fully and bring those responsible to justice.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Bulgaria

Send a letter to:

His Excellency Petar Stoyanov
President of the Republic of Bulgaria
VIA FAX: 011 359 2 875 601/011 359 2 822 574