Open Letter From Bivol.bg To Freedom of Press Organisations and Journalists

Екип на Биволъ

Dear Friends,

We are journalists from the Bulgarian investigative site Bivol. We specialize in exposing corruption and ties between senior politicians and organized crime. Our publications often become grounds for official investigations and are quoted in international press.

Ten days ago, we received a tipoff that we are also being investigated by Bulgarian secret services over our publications.

The investigation has been launched because we made public the so-called “Buddha” file, which includes formerly classified documents, exposing Bulgaria’s Prime Minister in ties with organized crime.

We sent an official inquiry to the current caretaker Prime Minister and Bulgaria’s Chief Prosecutor.

After 10 days of silence, we received an official letter from the Prosecutor’s Office, explaining it did not have the authority to check if journalists have been spied on.

Meanwhile, the Chief Prosecutor ordered a probe in allegations that a number of politicians and wealthy businessmen have been illegally wiretapped, showing Bulgarian authorities see journalists as a different, inferior group of people.

We believe the solidarity of our colleagues abroad could force these authorities to positively state if there is or there isn’t a probe against Bivol’s journalists.

For this reason, we kindly ask you to contact the office of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Marin Raykov, and the office of the Director of the State Agency for National Security, Konstantin Kazakov, and inquire officially about the said probe against journalists Assen Yordanov and Atanas Tchobanov. We also ask you to please, send a copy of your inquiry to us.

We wholeheartedly thank you for the solidarity and your help in finding the truth.

Atanas and Assen

Contacts:

The office of Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Marin Raykov: gis@government.bg  +359 2 940 3008

The State Agency for National Security:·e-mail:·dans@dans.bge-mail:·press@dans.bg·tel. +359 2 814 70 95

The office of Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov: prbcont@prb.bg +359 2 988 6610

Bivol.bg: press@bivol.bg tel. +33 6 32 69 11 28

——-

UPDATED 02.04.2013: The office of the Chief prosecutor replies the following:

For information about criminal cases initiated against the above-mentioned persons, questions should be addressed to the Ministry of Interior and the State Agency for National Security.

There are no initiated cases against those persons in the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria.

The Ministry of Interior is not providing email for press contacts. Therefore the letter should be addressed to the Prime Minister and the State Agency for National Security.

Example Letter:

From: Your name and position

To: gis@government.bgpress@dans.bg

To the attention of Mr. Marin Raykov, caretaker Prime Minister of Bulgaria

To the attention of Mr. Konstantin Kazakov, president of the State Agency for National Security

To the attention of Mr. Sotir Tsatsarov, Chief Prosecutor

Dear Sirs,

Would you please provide me with the following information: Is there a surveillance case at the Interior Ministry or the State Agency for National Security, DANS against Bivol journalists Atanas Tchobanov and Assen Yordanov?

If there is such case, when was it launched, on what legal grounds, on whose order, and what is its goal?

Respectfully

——-

References:

The Letter to the European Union and Bulgarian Institutions sent on 20th of March

To the attention of Ms. Cecilia Malsmstrom , European Commissioner for Home Affairs

and

Mr. Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, Chairman of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) at the European Parliament

Subject: Probe in the use of secret services in Bulgaria against journalists

Dear Ms. Malmstrom and Mr. Aguilar,

Our site is an independent Bulgarian online investigative media, focusing on corruption and organized crime as these are hottest issues in Bulgaria.

Back in February the site published the so-called “Buddha” file, undoubtedly proving former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s ties to organized crime in the 90s of the 20th century.

From the publication, society learned that in 1996 Borisov has been recruited by the Central Services for Combatting Organized Crime, CSBOP, as an informant under the alias Buddha, while in 1997 a plan for operative surveillance has been established for him to “clarify his criminal orientation.”

Commenting on the publications at the time, Borisov said that he could order the secret services to launch such surveillance cases against any journalist in Bulgaria. This prompted “Reporters without Borders” to issue a special press release condemning his statement, stressing that that “secret service investigations” of journalists and media are a thing of the past, the Cold War era, not compatible with Borisov’s position as one of the EU’s 27 most senior representatives.

The Association of European Journalists sent a request to Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, insisting on receiving an answer if there have been and if they are such surveillance cases as they could stir a huge scandal for being a blunt violation of Bulgarian and European law.

Bivol joined the request, but no one ever received an answer.

Our site, Bivol, became subject of mass hacker attacks after it published the Buddha file. We also received numerous anonymous threats. We alerted the services about some of them, but their authors still remain unknown. As a payback, we were tipped off by well-intended sources that these same secret services are following our activities. As we had no means to check the validity of this information, we refrained from publishing it or discussing it until now.

The concrete reason for turning to EU officials is the public announcement made by Bulgarian MEP Slavi Binev last week that he had information about a secret services case, codenamed “Buddhali,” aiming precisely at Bivol’s journalists, as Binev had named them.

We are not certain about the level of reliability of this information, but the very fact it has been announced by a MEP, who is also a member of the EP’s Special Committee on Organized Crime and Corruption, CRIM, is very alarming.

We believe the European Commission must execute a detailed probe to establish if there is indeed such surveillance case, which could be done in the frame of this month’s visit of the EC mission under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, CVM. As Bulgaria currently does not have a working Parliament, we call on LIBE at the EP to initiate a probe in the case.

LIBE must insist the Bulgarian authorities provide answers to the following questions:

Is there a surveillance case at the Interior Ministry or the State Agency for National Security, DANS against Bivol journalists Atanas Tchobanov and Assen Yordanov?

If there is such case, when was it launched, on what legal grounds, on whose order, and what is its goal?

We are posing the same questions to Bulgarian caretaker PM, Marin Raykov, caretaker Interior Minister, Petya Parvanova, Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, and DANS Chief, Konstantin Kazakov.

We anticipate their silence, but Ms. Malmstrom and Mr. Aguilar, we really expect to be heard by the European institutions.

Respectfully,

Assen Yordanov

Atanas Tchobanov

About us

Slate.com: If Woodward and Bernstein Were Bulgarian

Ars Technica: Whither whistleblowing: Where have all the leaking sites gone?

Forbes: Bulgarian Banks Threaten To Crush WikiLeaks’ Most Successful Copycat Site

 


***

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