SOFIA -- Dozens of journalists who work for Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) staged a protest against the state-run broadcasters' management on September 13, prompting the station to go off the air for five hours, after a colleague known for covering Bulgaria's corruption-prone judicial system was suspended from her job.
Journalist Silvia Velikova was scheduled to host the morning program Horizont on September 13. But BNR announced late on September 12 that the program would be taken off the air.
BNR management initially said the shutdown was necessary for technical maintenance of transmitters.
But Bulgarian media reports said colleagues refused to replace Velikova in solidarity with her, leading management to announce an unprecedented shutdown of transmitters around the country from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m.
As a result of the protest, Velikova was invited to start hosting her program again starting next week. The acting head of the Horizont program, Nikolay Krastev, also resigned from the post on September 13.
Krastev suspended Velikova on September 12, saying she had violated her contract by urging listeners while on air to join a protest over the appointment of Bulgaria's next chief prosecutor.
Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov on September 13 announced that he was launching an investigation into the silencing of the broadcaster on the grounds that Bulgarian National Radio is "part of the national-security infrastructure."
The case has drawn criticism from human rights groups.
The Bulgarian branch of the Association of European Journalists described the case as a "coup against journalistic professionalism" in a country that has the lowest press-freedom ranking among the 28 European Union member states.
Bulgaria was ranked 111th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders world press-freedom index in 2019 -- below countries in the Western Balkans that are not yet members of the EU.