It seems that the Bulgarian authorities are loath to condemn police violence. According to the Association of European Journalists, the chief public prosecutor’s office refused on 22 January to open an investigation into Dimiter Kenarov’s violent arrest while covering an anti-government protest in Sofia on 2 September.
Kenarov, who is known for his coverage of armed conflicts for international media such as Foreign Policy and BBC, was badly beaten, handcuffed and held for more than five hours without being able to speak to a lawyer.
According to a police investigation, whose findings are fully accepted by the chief public prosecutor’s office, Kenarov was “invited” to the police station after provoking a difference of opinion with police officers. The police conducted an internal investigation into suspicions that police officers hit Kenarov but, according to the prosecutor’s office, were unable to identify those responsible.
“We condemn the Sofia police’s refusal to reexamine this journalist’s arbitrary and violent arrest, and the absurd and dystopian narrative, worthy of George Orwell, being used by the authorities,” said Pavol Szalai, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “A new independent investigation is needed to establish the facts and to ensure that the authorities do not tolerate such behaviour towards journalists covering demonstrations.”
Several other journalists, including AFP reporter Nikolay Doychinov, were the victims of police violence during the 2 September demonstration. Doychinov was roughed up and his camera was damaged.
Bulgaria is ranked 111th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.