Men attack members of a news crew with Bulgarian public broadcaster BNT who were covering alleged pollution at a mine in Serbia. (Photo: BNT)

Bulgarian TV crew attacked with stones while investigating pollution at Serbian mine

Berlin, June 21, 2022 – Serbian authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate the recent attack on a TV crew for the Bulgarian public broadcaster BNT, and ensure that reporters covering environmental issues can work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On June 14, a group of six or seven men in the Serbian village of Karamanica, near the Bulgarian border, threw stones at the crew as they were documenting pollution allegedly caused by a mining company for the BNT investigative program “Traces Remain,” according to news reports, a report by BNT, and Bogdana Lazarova, the head of the news crew, who communicated with CPJ via email. Those reports identified Lazarova’s team members as camera operators Dimitar Slavov and Nikolai Andreev and technician Robert Vecov, and said they were accompanied by Serbian and Bulgarian environmental activists.

Lazarova told CPJ that she identified one of the attackers as the director of the mine. She said they threw stones at the journalists for several minutes, “even when we were shouting to them that we were journalists, that we had all the necessary shooting permissions.”

Slavov received bruises on his hand from the stones, Lazarova told CPJ. She added that she showed their permits to a man who identified himself as the head of the mine’s security, but men continued to harass them for another 15 to 20 minutes.

“Serbian authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the recent attack on reporter Bogdana Lazarova and her crew with the Bulgarian public broadcaster BNT, find the perpetrators, and hold them to account,” said CPJ Europe Representative Attila Mong. “Journalists covering environmental issues act on behalf of the public; attacking or intimidating them is totally unacceptable, and just shows that the attackers have something to hide.”

Police in the nearby town of Bosilegrad opened an investigation into the incident on the evening of June 14, the crew members gave witness testimonies, and police interrogated members of the group who attacked them, according to Lazarova and a report by Serbian public broadcaster RTS.

CPJ emailed the company in charge of the mine in Karamanica and the Serbian Ministry of Interior, which oversees the police in Bosilegrad, for comment, but did not immediately receive any replies.