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Watchdog Urges Bulgaria To Protect Anti-Corruption Reporter After Death Threats

Bulgarian journalist Nikolay Staykov is said to have received death threats after releasing a documentary on corruption that allegedly involved state institutions. (file photo)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on Bulgarian authorities to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into death threats received by an investigative reporter who specializes in covering corruption cases.

In a statement on July 3, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog also demanded that Nikolay Staykov be granted immediate police protection.

It said Staykov received dozens of anonymous calls asking about funeral services after he released a documentary concerning a corruption affair allegedly involving state institutions.

Staykov has filed a report with the police, who have not taken action yet, RSF said.

The lack of a rapid reaction on the part of the authorities "would just encourage more of this kind of pressure on investigative reporters," said Pavol Szalai, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans Desk.

According to RSF, the threats are apparently linked to the first part of his documentary The Eight Dwarfs, which alleged that the Prosecutor’s Office and other official entities were involved in the financial swindling of businessman Iliya Zlatanov.

They began on June 18 after Staykov tried to contact one of the protagonists in the affair, Petyo Petrov, former head of investigations at the Sofia City Prosecutor-General's Office. The threats ended after they were made public.

After the first part of the documentary was released, prosecutors filed a complaint on June 26 and began an initial investigation into Staykov’s allegations, and the journalist was questioned by a special unit at the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office whose former chief is Petrov's brother.

The second part of Staykov's documentary was released this week.

RSF says reporters who investigate corruption are often victims of pressure in Bulgaria, which is ranked 111th in the watchdog’s 2020 Press Freedom Index -- far below any other European Union member.

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