By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Widespread condemnation from media and international organisations has followed an arson attack on the car of Bulgarian television journalist Genka Shikerova, the second such attack on her vehicle in about six months.
In September 2013, the private vehicle of Shikerova, a journalist with television station bTV was set ablaze in an incident that at the time was slammed by media rights watchdogs and that contributed to international ratings of media freedom in Bulgaria being lowered.
The second attack came on April 2 2014, and again there has been condemnation – with few failing to point out that official investigations into the first arson incident came to nothing.
A breakfast show presenter, Shikerova has gained note over the years for investigative reporting on a number of issues, for example illegal construction at Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
She is not alone in having been the subject of what appears to be an intimidation attempt. In the past decade, while few and far between, there have other incidents of bomb attacks on the homes, offices and vehicles of journalists.
After the April 2 burning of Shikerova’s car, Reporters Without Borders head of research Lucie Morillon said, “This second attack increases our fears for the safety of Genka Shikerova, a political journalist known for her uncompromising interviews.
“These repeat crimes are a cause for concern and must be stopped by the police, who must do all in their power to find those responsible and bring them to justice,” Morillon said.
Shikerova, the host of the morning show Tazi sutrin (This Morning), told Nova TV she was sure the arson attack was in no way connected to her private life. She added that she had not received any threats in the weeks before the fire. Sofia police chief Ivailo Spiridonov said on bTV the attack was most probably linked to her work as a journalist.
OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatović also spoke out after the attack on Shikerova’s vehicle.
“I strongly condemn this attack against Shikerova and urge the authorities to swiftly and thoroughly investigate the incident,” Mijatović said.
“The fact that no one has been prosecuted for the attack six months ago sends a message that perpetrators can go unpunished,” she said. “I call on the authorities to publicly condemn this attack and bring the people to justice.”
In Sofia, Maria Stoyanova, a member of the Council for Electronic Media – the regulatory body created by statute to oversee broadcasters in Bulgaria – also strongly condemned what Stoyanova called an attempt to intimidate Shikerova.
Shikerova’s employer, bTV Media Group, expressed its sincere sympathy and support for the journalist in an April 2 statement.
“The role of the journalist is to be critical and ask all questions in order to protect the public interest. Only in this way the media can fulfill its function as the fourth estate on which Bulgarian citizens can rely,” bTV Media Group said.
The statement expressed hope that police and prosecutors would do their job to bring to justice the perpetrator of the attack.
BTV also thanked all viewers, colleagues and friends who had expressed their support.
“The rapid reaction of society and journalists is indicative of the high intolerance for aggression,” the statement said.