Alerts   |   Bulgaria

Television journalist's car explodes in Bulgaria

Sasho Dikov's car was destroyed in the blast. (Reuters)

New York, October 14, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Thursday's attack on Sasho Dikov, a Bulgarian journalist with private national television channel Kanal 3, and calls on investigators to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators.

On Thursday night, Dikov, Kanal 3's program director and the anchor of a popular political broadcast, heard a blast outside his apartment in the Gotse Deltchev residential complex in the capital, Sofia, local reports said. Two pounds (one kilogram) of explosive material, planted around the front left wheel of the journalist's Ford Focus sedan, had detonated, but no one was killed or injured, news reports said. The car was destroyed.

"We call on Bulgaria's top leaders to condemn the attack against Sasho Dikov and pledge their commitment to defending media freedom as a foundation for a democratic and stable society," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "We also call on officials in Bulgaria's Interior Ministry to investigate this attack thoroughly, and bring all behind it to justice."

In an interview with public broadcaster BNT, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov emphasized the timing of the blast instead of focusing on the need to find and punish its perpetrators. The blast occurred during European Commission President José Manuel Barroso's visit to Sofia. Borisov also said that those who blasted the car were trying to discredit his cabinet by undermining their successes in front of Barroso and the other visiting members of the European Commission. "The blast benefits those who do not like the fact that the successes of the government are recognized in Europe," he told BNT. He also seemed to play down the seriousness of the attack. "No, no, [the attack] is not against a journalist--it is against the car of a journalist. He had gone home at 6 o'clock already," he told BNT.

"It is inconceivable that Bulgaria's premier would diminish the severity of the attack on Sasho Dikov in his public statements," Ognianova said. "The attitude of government leaders would determine how seriously their subordinates in law enforcement would handle this investigation. Prime Minister Borisov must clearly and unconditionally condemn the incident as an act against press freedom and the rule of law in Bulgaria."

Dikov and Kanal 3 are known for their critical stance on the policies of the current Bulgarian cabinet, led by Borisov. Dikov has repeatedly criticized the government's poor record in reining in corruption and organized crime in the country, local news reports said.

Dikov has not publicly connected the attack to his journalism or speculated on who could be behind it, and has said that he received no threats beforehand. He expressed skepticism about the impending investigation in an interview with television channel bTV, referring to a bomb attack earlier this year outside the Sofia headquarters of the opposition weekly Galeriya. "In this case, only eight to nine hours have passed [since the blast]. But since a bomb went off outside Galeriya's office, eight to nine months have passed and still no perpetrator has been found," he said.

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov connected the attack to political competition ahead of the October 23 elections in the country. "There is a pre-election campaign going on at the moment," he said, according to press reports. "And I link this [attack] to persons who consider the explosion a useful instrument in the campaign." He said that the perpetrators will be arraigned.

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