The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum call for immediate inquiries into the death of Bulgarian journalist, Viktoria Marinova, and the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi Arabian journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
The organisation also condemned the killing of Mexican journalist, Mario Leonel Gómez Sánchez, and Somali journalist, Abdirisak Said Osman, calling for thorough inquiries in each case to help undermine a growing culture of impunity for attacks against journalists worldwide.
The body of Viktoria Marinova, a TV journalist who recently reported on an investigation into alleged corruption involving EU funds, was found on Saturday in a car park in the Bulgarian border town of Ruse. She had reportedly been raped before her murder. At this time, Bulgarian prosecutors are not linking the murder to her work, saying no threats had been received.
Marinova, a board member of the Ruse-based TV station TVN, presented a current affairs talk show called Detector. In an episode broadcast Sept 30, the show featured interviews with investigative journalists Dimitar Stoyanov from the Bivol.bg website and Attila Biro from the Romanian Rise Project, about an investigation into alleged fraud involving EU funds linked to big business and political elites.
In response to Marinova’s murder Bivol.bg owner, Asen Yordanov, confirmed to AFP that his media had received credible information that its journalists were in danger of being assaulted because of the investigation.
WAN-IFRA calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into Marinova’s death and for any link to her work as a journalist to be fully explored as a means of bringing the perpetrators to justice and protecting other journalists working to expose corruption in Bulgaria.
“The murder of Marinova is a horrendous and unprecedented crime within the EU, and, if confirmed to have been carried out in retaliation for her work, adds to the growing impression that the enemies of journalism now feel they can kill with impunity,” WAN-IFRA said in a statement.
“Following the deaths of Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana, and Slovakian journalist, Jan Kuciak, Europe must react strongly to end this cycle of violence and provide greater protections for its journalists.”
In a separate incident, confusion surrounds the disappearance of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who reportedly entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday of last week but has not been seen since. On Saturday, Turkish investigators alleged he had been the victim of an act of state-sponsored murder, an accusation supported by initial investigations by police and intelligence officials. Further information released by Turkish sources on Sunday suggested Saudi security officials travelled to Turkey, allegedly to intercept Khashoggi.
A regular columnist for The Washington Post, Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia last year and has been outspoken in his criticism of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and aspects of his reform programme. He had visited the Istanbul consulate to sign divorce papers, and when he failed to reappear, his Turkish fiancé notified police.
WAN-IFRA is deeply concerned by the whereabouts of Khashoggi and calls for a thorough investigation into the events leading up to his disappearance.
“We are bitterly aware of the irony of calling upon the world’s worst jailer of journalists to act in the interests of press freedom, but if the allegations are even remotely true, then this is a grave act of state-sponsored violence against a journalist that cannot go unanswered,” said a statement by WAN-IFRA.
The organisation also calls for thorough inquiries into the killings of Mexican journalist, Mario Leonel Gómez Sánchez, a reporter with local newspaper El Heraldo de Chiapas who was shot and killed on Sept 21 in the town of Yajalón, and Abdirisak Said Osman, a reporter and photographer with the privately owned radio station Codka Nabada, who died on Sept 19 from injuries sustained in an attack the previous day in Puntland, a semi-autonomous area of Somalia.
“While we welcome the speed with which authorities in Mexico and Somalia respectively have acted to apprehend and arrest suspects in both cases, we urge thorough investigations to be launched to ensure that, while the perpetrators are brought to justice, those ultimately responsible for the killings are also held to account,” said WAN-IFRA.
“The culture of impunity that surrounds crimes against journalists, and which is prevalent in both countries, cannot be allowed to spread any further. Those who ordered, paid for, or sanctioned the killings must be identified and face the full force of the law, as a means of bringing justice to the families of the bereaved and to help ensure journalists working in dangerous environments are afforded the greatest protections.”