AEJ-Bulgaria condemns attack on journalist at ruling party meeting
AEJ-Bulgaria has condemned the unprovoked violence against a reporter for Radio Free Europe by security guards and delegates at a national conference of the ruling party, and issued an Open letter to protest about the incident to EPP group leader in the European Parliament Donald Tusk, Bulgaria’s prime minister Boyko Borissov and the country’s General prosecutor.
To Mr. Donald Tusk
President of the European People’s Party
To Mr. Boyko Borissov
Prime Minister of Bulgaria
President of Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB)
To Mr. Ivan Geshev
Prosecutor General of Bulgaria
The Association of European Journalists in Bulgaria condems reported attack on a Bulgarian journalist during the national conference of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, on Wednesday in Sofia. Journalist Polina Paunova of the Bulgarian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was attacked by young men who attended the party meeting. Polina’s cellphone, which she was using for filming the event, was thrown multiple times while she herself was pushed and hit. The ruling party’s conference has been held in the midst of protests demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev, that have been going for 28 days.
The incident occurred while Paunova was covering the event and trying to interview the men whom she earlier saw clashing with anti-government protesters.
The men, who can be seen assaulting Paunova in the video of the incident, have been allowed to the designated area by the security of the event. Even more outrageous is the fact that while Paunova and her colleagues were asking the security guards for help, another man appeared on the scene, insisting that the journalist show her press card, pushing and insulting her.
We believe that you are aware that violence towards journalists during an event, organized by Bulgaria’s ruling party, is unacceptable.
Dear Mr. Borissov,
We insist that you reveal the names of the attackers and the measures you will take in relation to the accident. You have to shed light on the details about the way the security of the event was provided, how were the security guards instructed and how the young men who attacked the journalist had been granted access to the event. If they were there as delegates you have to announce to which party organization they belong. In case they have managed to enter in another way, then you must explain why they have received such assistance from the security guards and why a number of delegates, wearing party badges, remained silent while journalists were calling the security to take action.
Dear Mr. Tusk,
We are addressing you because GERB is a member of the European People’s Party and such an accident at its formal event affects the whole European family of the party. We urge you to take immediate action so journalists can perform their duties without fearing for their safety.
Dear Mr. Geshev,
We expect from you to inform the Bulgarian society on what measures have been taken by the prosecutor’s office to identify the journalists’ attackers.
You have to guarantee a fair investigation as just a day ago, on Tuesday, the institution led by you published a critical declaration against an article published by the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Bulgaria service. We are concerned that the verbal expressions used by the prosecutor’s office against the publication could trigger the attackers to think that violence against the team of the media might be treated with impunity.
As an observer to the Council of Europe’s Media Steering Committee, the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) will report this case to the international community.