Bulgarian radio says suspect has been arrested in connection with journalist's slaying

Viktoria Marinova

Ruse regional prosecutor Georgy Georgiev said, "Her death was caused by blows to the head and suffocation, and her mobile phone, auto keys, glasses and some of her clothing were missing".

Ms Marinova was a director of TVN, a small TV station, and a TV presenter for two investigative programmes.

On the advice of legal counsel, journalists at TVN were not commenting to their colleagues.

"Those responsible must be held to account", Harlem Desir, a representative for media freedom at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, wrote on Twitter, urging a full investigation. A Bulgarian investigative online media site went even further, calling for an independent worldwide inquiry, saying that a Bulgarian probe could be compromised by corrupt Bulgarian officials.

Mladen Marinov, Bulgaria's interior minister, described the murder as "exceptionally brutal", according to local news outlets.

The European Commission, the European Union's executive said in a tweet today: 'There is no democracy without a free press.

Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said: 'We do not exclude that it was a random attack, we do not exclude that it was a premeditated attempt on her life'.

He said Monday that "at this stage let's be careful, not because we don't have anything to say, but because every word uttered loosely could damage our work".

The place where Marinova was found dead, at the riverside, is frequented by fishermen and people going jogging. In Ruse, mourners, some tearful, placed candles, her portrait and roses- the national flower- at the foot of a monument. One participant, Kristina Petkov, said Bulgarians now had "zero" trust in authorities. Bulgarian Bivol's reporters Dimitar Stoyanov and Attila Biro were guests on her last show.

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In a July report on the state of media freedom in Bulgaria, Reporters Without Borders said, "Fortunately, no investigative journalists have been killed in Bulgaria for their work, but there are documented murder plans and attempts, cruel, execution-style, beatings, vehicle arson and bombs targeting investigative reporters".

EU commissioners voiced "shock" and pledged help after the killing, at the weekend, of a Bulgarian journalist who reported on alleged fraud in European funds.

Through a United Nations spokesperson, Secretary-General António Guterres called on "all governments to strengthen press freedom and ensure there is accountability for crimes committed against journalists".

Authorities in Slovakia say they have narrowed the list of those suspected of ordering the killing but declined to offer any details while the investigation was in progress, noting that the plot may have also involved targeting a high-ranking prosecutor involved in prosecuting corruption. According to Bivol, local businessmen, politicians, and even Russian oligarchs took part in corruption schemes.

The brutal crimes shook Ruse, where murders are rare.

Sven Giegold, a German member of the Greens in the European Parliament, said all of Europe should worry about the killing.

It said officials allocated European Union funding to some media outlets with "a complete lack of transparency, in effect bribing them to go easy on the government in their reporting or refrain from covering certain problematic stories altogether".

"I am shocked by the horrific murder of investigative journalist Viktoria Marinova in Bulgaria", Désir. said in a statement. A Maltese investigative reporter was killed in a auto bomb in October past year, and a Slovak journalist was shot dead in February. We condemn any effort to intimidate journalists from reporting on corruption.

Swedish reporter Kim Wall was killed by Danish inventor Peter Madsen after boarding his homemade submarine to do an interview in Copenhagen in August 2017.

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