Reporters Without Borders

Attempt by mayor of southeastern town to intimidate freelance journalist

Published on Friday 21 May 2010.
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Reporters Without Borders condemns the harassment of freelance journalist Atanas Tchobanov by the mayor of the southeastern town of Carevo. Town hall employees entered his property in the nearby village of Varvara on 13 May, told his parents in a threatening manner they were acting on mayor Petko Arnaudov’s orders, and proceeded to measure a wooden bungalow built on the land, claiming it was illegal.

Tchobanov immediately reported the incident to the police and the prosecutor’s office, asking them to treat it as a case of trespass and abuse of authority.

“The Carevo town hall employees had no legal basis for this ‘visit’,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Chobanov’s family has clearly been the victim of a case of intimidation, which often precedes more violent ‘warnings’ in Bulgaria. We urge the government authorities that oversee the town hall to publicly condemn this behaviour and to adopt the necessary measures with the officials who instigated this intimidation.”

Tchobanov told Reporters Without Borders he was convinced that the Carevo town hall was reacting to one of his investigative reports accusing it of abusing public resources and corrupt practices.

“The mayor can bring a defamation suit against me if he does not like my articles and I will prove to the court that they were right,” Tchobanov said. “The methods he has used are worthy of the old regime. What is happening to me now is unfortunately not an isolated case. Regional journalists are often the victim of angry reactions from local officials but they dare not denounce the intimidation because they are economically dependent on the local government or fear administrative reprisals.”

Read Chobanov’s story (in Bulgarian): http://www.dnevnik.bg/show/?rubrika...

Information (in Bulgarian) about corruption: http://www.mediapool.bg/show/?story...

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