Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov stands by the EU flag at a conference in Sofia, in December 2017. Police in Bulgaria briefly detained two journalists investigating allegations of fraud involving EU funds. (Reuters/Stoyan Nenov)

Bulgarian police detain two investigative reporters

September 14, 2018 2:05 PM ET

Bulgarian police on September 13, 2018 detained Attila Biro, editor of the Romanian investigative site Rise Project, and Dimitar Stoyanov, from Bivol, a Bulgarian investigative news website, according to reports. The investigative journalists were detained near Radomir, a town about 35 km west of the capital, Sofia, Bivol reported.

At the time of their arrest, Biro and Stoyanov were investigating allegations of fraud involving EU funds, for the global investigative reporting platform Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Bivol reported. Local police detained the journalists while they were documenting the alleged destruction of documents in a field near Radomir, after receiving a tip off, the website reported.

The report said that the journalists were working on a follow-up article to a story published in Bivol two days earlier about alleged corruption in infrastructure projects financed by the EU. Earlier in the day the journalists had notified the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior about the tip off alleging that documents and potential evidence were being destroyed, according to reports.

The regional news site Balkan Insight reported that local police handcuffed the journalists and kept them for an hour on the site, before taking the journalists to the police station in Radomir, where they were released without charge three hours later. Bivol reported that police also confiscated the journalists' phones.

The Bulgarian police confirmed on its website on September 14 that it detained the two reporters until officers had verified their identity, because they were in an area under police surveillance. The statement said that the tips provided by the journalists prompted the police to start an operation near Radomir.

The journalists were working on an investigation as part of a project called "Exposing Fraud in EU-funded Projects in Romania and Bulgaria," funded by the IJ4 EU fund of the European Commission and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Bivol reported.

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