The Chairman of the Managing Board of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) Otmar Lahodynsky (Austria) met the Director of Bulgaria’s General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime Ivaylo Spiridonov, on Wednesday (29th of November). The meeting, attended also by Irina Nedeva, President of the Bulgarian section (AEJ-Bulgaria), was focused on a recent case of life threats to the publisher of the regional website "Zov News", Georgi Ezekiev, and the journalist Maria Dimitrova, who works there. These threats have already triggered a reaction from another international media freedom group - Reporters without Borders.
Mr. Lahodynsky introduced Spiridonov to the work of AEJ at European level and pointed out that it is an independent observer of the Council of Europe and is part of an international network of organizations that monitors and reports cases of attacks and exerting of pressure on journalists to the special platform which promotes the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. Since 2015, 150 such alerts have been submitted, and the Council of Europe has asked the respective national governments to take actions on them.
The AEJ Chairman said that after the terrible murder of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, any threat to a journalist should be considered very seriously.
Spiridonov pointed out that the threats against journalists affect every Bulgarian citizen and that no signal submitted to the Directorate-General for Combating Organized Crime is neglected. Specifically in the case of Ezekiev and Dimitrova, the head of the service said that the institution is already working on this alert. All witnesses, including journalists, will be interrogated, Spiridonov noted, expressing hope that the journalists will be fully cooperative.
The Directorate of the Combating Organized Crime department has made it clear that he is aware of the public expectations and claims of the service he is in charge of, but stressed that the institution performs a major part of its activities away from the public attention, as its priority is to identify criminal groups and to gather the necessary evidence for their illegal activities. He assured the representatives of AEJ that his institution had taken all necessary measures within its powers.