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Bulgaria Condemned For Refusal To Probe Journalist's Violent Arrest

Dimitar Kenarov pictured 12 hours after his detention in police custody
Dimitar Kenarov pictured 12 hours after his detention in police custody

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for an independent and transparent investigation into the beating of Bulgarian freelance journalist Dimitar Kenarov while in police custody in September 2020.

“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,” Pavol Szalai, the head of the Paris-based media freedom watchdog’s European Union and Balkans desk, said in a statement on February 11.

Szalai said a new independent investigation is needed to “establish the facts and to ensure that the authorities do not tolerate such behavior towards journalists covering demonstrations.”

Kenarov, who has worked for international media such as the BBC and RFE/RL, was detained while covering an anti-government protest in Sofia on September 2.

The journalist was “badly beaten, handcuffed, and held for more than five hours without being able to speak to a lawyer,” RSF said.

But Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev’s office on January 22 refused to open an investigation into the violent arrest, according to the Association of European Journalists.

RSF cited findings of a police investigation according to which “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,” according to the group, which noted that other journalists were the victims of police violence during the September 2020 rally.

Bulgaria is ranked 111th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index -- the lowest place among the EU's 27 member nations.

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