On Monday, February 19, around 12.30 pm, Stoyan Tonchev, reporter of Bivol, was brutally attacked by Hristo Shirokov, former bodyguard of notorious drug lord Dimitar “Mityo The Eyes” Zhelyazkov in front of the local police headquarters in the Black Sea town of Pomorie. The journalist became a target of physical assault, obscenities and threats. Shirokov is known in the underground by his nickname “Shirokata” (The Broad), and is currently a municipal councilor in the local parliament of Pomorie from the party largely representing the Bulgarian Muslim minority – Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) He is known to be very close to Mayor Ivan Alexiev, from the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB. Stoyan Tonchev was brutally beaten two years ago near his home and miraculously survived after a series of surgeries. The masterminds of the attack are believed to be precisely Alexiev and Shirokov. The two are frequently investigated by the journalist for corruption, abuse of power and of public resources.

Shirokov noticed Tonchev on the steps in front of the entrance to the police station, talking with the policeman on duty. The journalist had asked to receive an incoming number for a complaint he had filed the day before, describing threats related to his work and posing a risk to his life. At this point, Hristo Shirokov’s wife Eva parked her car nearby. The couple left the car and Shirokov accosted Tonchev shouting:

“Come here, come here, you, snitch, rat! Are you going to do it again…? I’ll crush you!”

Shirokov tried to kick Tonchev, but the latter’s quick reaction prevented it. The reporter then turned back and walked quickly to the entrance to the police station, urging the officer on duty to intervene and stop the physical abuse, while the attacker kept shouting threats and obscenities. Tonchev asked the policeman: “Do you see that? Isn’t that a threat?! He is trying to hit me!”. The policeman turned a blind eye and replied that he had seen nothing.

In the aftermath of this lack of any reaction from the police employees in Pomorie, Stoyan Tonchev filed an official report of the incident with the Ministry of Interior.


Shirokov arrested and brought to court with a police escort


Bivol’s editorial office stands firmly behind our colleague because we are worried that there is a real risk to his health and life due to his activities as a whistleblower about the local mafia. We call on the relevant institutions in the Republic of Bulgaria to react urgently and strongly and launch an investigation into this threat and the inactivity of the police. We also recall again that Stoyan has already been the victim of a severe assault, whose perpetrators remain unknown, at large and unpunished.

At the time, the assault provoked a significant international reaction of outrage by a number of renowned international organizations such as the CPJ, the OSCE, the AEJ, and the ECPMF, who called on the Bulgarian authorities to do their best to prevent such assaults on journalists.

It is obvious that Tonchev cannot count on the police in Pomorie. We should add that when the journalist went to the police station to obtain the incoming number of his claim, instead of being assisted by the officer on duty, the latter asked him to wait until he had finished eating his snack. During the incident, the police officer also called Shirokov’s wife by her first name, which speaks of a close friendship between him and the family.

On February 14, 2018, Tonchev received messages on the social network “Instagram” from the same lady, Shirokov’s wife Eva Gorgovska, warning him (quote) that “it is not desirable to write about Shirokov because you know WHO HE IS”.

Because of all this, it is imperative:

To carry out an immediate internal security check by the Ministry of Interior of the recordings of the security cameras of the police station, the nearby buildings, shops and pharmacies;

To check the records of the mobile and stationary phone communications of Hristo Shirokov, his wife Eva and the Pomorie police employees on duty between 12: 15 pm and 12: 30 pm on February 19 to determine whether Shirokov had been informed that Tonchev was in front of the Pomorie police station;

To find out whether Shirokov had been served with a warning and why he had not been detained for his behavior and the attack on Tonchev in the presence of a policeman, thus violating public order, despite the victim asking the police for help and protection;

The law enforcement inaction might be explained by the fact that Hristo Shirokov is not only a municipal councilor, but is in close relation with the Mayor of Pomorie, Ivan Alexiev. This close relation can be proven by an informal meeting, which they held two days prior the incident, during non-work hours in the building of the Municipality of Pomorie.

On Saturday, February 17, 2018, before noon, the DPS municipal councilor Hristo Shirokov, apparently nervous, had been seen walking back and forth near the building, obviously waiting for someone. The Mayor of Pomorie Ivan Aleksiev had appeared an hour later. The two had walked together inside the Town Hall and their meeting had lasted for hours.

What work are a mayor from the ruling party and a municipal councilor from the opposition doing on a day off?


В чеврвено – Алексиев и Широката влизайки в сградата на Общината в почивен ден.

In the red ovals – Alexiev and Shirokov entering the building of the Municipality on a day off.

Since the beginning of the new year, right when Bulgaria took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we have witnessed a series of contract killings of businessmen and individuals close to the government. Now, it is probably the turn of inconvenient journalists.

Stoyan Tonchev has been investigating for years the corruption schemes in the allocation of public funds by the Pomorie Municipality. Information about his work as a journalist can also be found on the local site www.zadkulisite.com. Since March 2016, the journalist contributes to Bivol’s work as well, covering local issues of corruption on the Black Sea coast.

The case of the 2016 assault on Tonchev opens on February 26, 2018, at the Pomorie District Court.


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