Reporters Without Borders condemns a smear campaign against Atanas Chobanov, the editor of the investigative new website Bivol.bg, and expresses its support and sympathy for this independent journalist.
Chobanov has been the target of an orchestrated campaign for several days as a result of his and his staff’s coverage of alleged corruption involving Bulgarian media mogul and “oligarch” Delyan Peevski. “We are the object of an unprecedented campaign of smears, slander and harassment by the propaganda tools of the oligarch Delyan Peevski, the former head of the DANS intelligence agency, current parliamentary representative of the Turkish minority party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DNL) and owner of many newspapers and TV stations,” Chobanov said. “We have been investigating his activities for years and our latest reports are clearly hurting,” he added. Photos of Chobanov and co-editor Assen Yordanov currently appear on the front pages of tabloids and websites that defend Peevski’s interests. While Chobanov was abroad, a crew from Kanal 3, a Peevski-owned Bulgarian TV station, turned up without warning at his home on 10 October, talked to members of his family and, without their knowledge, filmed them being questioned “We can only condemn what are clearly attempts to intimidate Bivol’s journalists,” said Alexandra Geneste, the head of the Reporters Without Borders EU/Balkans desk. “Their investigative work is perfectly legitimate and we express our most sincere support and sympathy for them.” Bulgaria is ranked 106th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom. This is the worst ranking of any European Union member.