Berlin, December 20, 2022—Bulgarian authorities must stop harassing journalists Alexei Lazarov and Desislava Nikolova, and cease attempting to investigate their sources, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
Prosecutors summoned Lazarov and Nikolova for questioning on December 12 regarding allegations of drug markups in state-owned hospitals that were published in the weekly newspaper Capital, according to Lazarov, the private outlet’s editor-in-chief, who spoke to CPJ by phone. Nikolova, a Capital editor and reporter who wrote the November 11 story, was asked about the source of an internal Ministry of Health report she had cited, Lazarov said.
“Bulgarian authorities must stop pressuring Alexei Lazarov and Desislava Nikolova for information about the sources for their reporting,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Journalists who investigate potential irregularities in public spending do their work in the interest of the public, and to subject them to questioning in this way is simply intimidation.”
The roughly 30-minute interview took place in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, where the journalists are based, on behalf of the prosecutor’s office in Varna, a city in the northeast, which is in charge of the investigation, according to Lazarov. Police said they were considering a criminal investigation into the practices described in the article, but focused questions on where Capital got its information, he said.
Lazarov and Nikolova declined to answer, citing their journalistic right to protect their sources, and considered the questions “a form of pressure and harassment,” Lazarov told CPJ.
CPJ emailed questions to the press office of prosecutors in Varna and Bulgaria’s Ministry of Health, but received no reply.