Bulgarian journalist Atanas Tchobanov recently received a notification from the U.S. Embassy in Sofia warning him of an "imminent threat" to his safety. (Photo: Atanas Tchobanov)

US Embassy in Bulgaria warns investigative journalist Atanas Tchobanov of ‘imminent threat’

Berlin, January 13, 2022 — Bulgarian authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate any threats against investigative journalist Atanas Tchobanov and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On January 7, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, notified Tchobanov, a reporter for Bulgarian investigative news websites Bivol and BIRD, that they had been made aware of an “imminent threat of physical violence” against him, according to news reports, the journalist, who communicated with CPJ via email, and a statement on Twitter by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an international reporting project that has partnered with BIRD.

Tchobanov, who is based outside of Bulgaria, said the threat concerned an attack if he returned to the country. He alerted Bulgarian authorities, and the Sofia district prosecutor’s office is gathering information on the case, according to the journalist and news reports.

“Bulgarian authorities must take the threat received by journalist Atanas Tchobanov seriously, thoroughly investigate it, and hold the perpetrators to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Tchobanov and all other Bulgarian investigative journalists must be able to work freely and without fear that their lives will be at risk.”

Tchobanov told CPJ that he believed the threat was connected to his latest investigation in BIRD about contracts between a U.S. lobbyist and Delyan Peevski, a Bulgarian member of parliament, media owner, and former head of the country’s intelligence services. He said he received the notification one day after he started calling the subjects of that article for comment.

CPJ emailed the U. S. Embassy in Sofia, the Bulgarian Ministry of the Interior, and Peevski, through his political party and parliamentary office, but did not receive any replies.