The body of Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova was found in a park on Saturday, making her the third journalist to have been murdered in the European Union in a year, the Guardian reports.
Marinova, 30, had reported on an investigation into corruption of EU funds shortly before she was raped and brutally murdered in the northern town of Ruse on the Danube river, according to Bulgarian authorities.
“Her death was caused by blows to the head and suffocation, and her mobile phone, car keys, glasses and some of her clothing were missing,” said Ruse regional prosecutor Georgy Georgiev.
Marinova was a presenter for a current affairs show called Detector on Ruse-based private television channel TVN, one of the most popular channels in northeastern Bulgaria.
In a segment aired on September 30, Marinova interviewed two Romanian journalists who were investigating several politicians and businessmen for alleged corruption of EU funds. Prior to the TVN interview’s broadcast, the Romanians had been briefly detained by Bulgarian authorities.
According to Interior Minister Mladen Marinov, there is no evidence to suggest that Marinova’s death was motivated by her journalism. “It is about rape and murder,” he said said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Bulgarian authorities to launch a thorough investigation.
“CPJ is shocked by the barbaric murder of journalist Victoria Marinova,” Tom Gibson, CPJ’s European Union representative, said in a statement. “Bulgarian authorities must employ all efforts and resources to carry out an exhaustive inquiry and bring to justice those responsible.”
Speaking under the condition of anonymity, a TVN journalist told Agence-France Presse, “We are in shock. In no way, under any form, never have we received any threats – aimed at her or the television.” The journalist said he and his coworkers feared for their safety.
In October, one of Malta’s best-known journalists, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who had worked on the Panama Papers revelations, was killed after a bomb exploded in a rented car she was using. In February, investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend were shot to death in Slovakia.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Bulgaria ranks 111 out of 180 countries on the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the lowest scoring member of the European Union.