By Dimitar Iv. Ganev
There’s no evidence Viktoria Marinova’s tragic death was tied to her journalistic work, but her case should not be lightly dismissed and forgotten. It is a chance to lift the curtain on some of the direst problems in her country and the region. The way media and politics interact in Bulgaria is so corrupt that at first everyone thought the inevitable had happened – a journalist was killed because of investigations. Why was this reaction so prevalent in the first days?
Her death was most probably not related to her work. The brutal rape and murder of Viktoria Marinova in the small Danube city of Ruse shook the Balkan country and Europe, and started a search for the truth. For a brief moment the lights of international media were pointed toward the problems Bulgaria has accumulated in the area of freedom of expression. But when authorities revealed that Marinova appeared to be the victim of an entirely random homicide, the lights started to gradually go off. And they shouldn’t. At least not so soon.
Because her case reveals, albeit indirectly, so much about Bulgaria and the democracies in Eastern Europe – from the lack of trust in institutions to the marriage of convenience between politics and media. Unlike the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, who died in a car explosion in Malta a year ago, and the death of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak last February, Marinova’s case bears more resemblance to the tragic death of Kim Wall. There’s no evidence that the Swedish journalist and the Bulgarian TV presenter were killed because their journalistic work threatened big interests.
Marinova did give air time to other journalists exposing a large EU funds abuse scheme. Bivol.bg’s investigation revealed how a company with political links allegedly misuses EU funds. The first and last issue of Marinova’s program “Detector” featured an interview with one of Bivol.bg’s journalists and his Romanian writing partner.
The soft media underbelly of Europe
Unfortunately, even the largest journalistic revelation may bear no consequences in Bulgaria and in other Balkan countries. To put it bluntly, media workers need not be murdered, as they rarely pose a threat. With a few heroic exceptions, of course. The ones who can kill any story are the media owners and editors, and that is where the political and economic pressure is being applied. The war between power and truth has ended with the crushing defeat of the latter in the region. This is why the story behind the story of Viktoria Marinova’s murder is important.
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