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A man has been arrested over the rape and murder of Bulgarian television reporter Viktoria Marinova, who had highlighted possible government corruption, police said.

An interior ministry spokeswoman said the ministry may issue a statement later on Tuesday.

The first episode of the show on 30 September broadcast 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 European Union funds linked to big businessmen and politicians.

"He has been charged in absence for two crimes - rape and premeditated murder with extreme cruelty", he said.

Marinova is the third journalist to be murdered in Europe in the past 12 months after Jan Kuciak in Slovakia in February and Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta in October 2017.

European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans tweeted, "Shocked by the horrendous murder". Bulgarian journalists at Zov News and the Bivol website were investigating a drug-trafficking ring suspected of having links to police when they uncovered the alleged plan to murder Ezekiev, who publishes Zov News.

While authorities have not established any link to her work so far, her murder has angered and upset many in a country where people are frustrated with rampant corruption and an inefficient and graft-prone judiciary, for which Sofia has been repeatedly criticised by the European Commission. "We think they are trying to hide something", said Atanas Chobanov, editor of the Bulgarian investigative site "Bivol".

Local media focused on Marinova's recent TV interview with Bulgarian journalists Attila Biro and Dimitar Stoyanov who were investigating alleged large-scale fraud by companies involved in EU-funded infrastructure projects.

The body of Viktoria Marinova, 30, was found in a park in the northern town of Ruse.

At a press conference also attended by prime minister Boyko Borissov on Wednesday morning, he added Bulgaria expected Mr Krasimirov to be extradited from Germany.

"There is justified global skepticism about the Bulgarian state's commitment to press freedom and only a comprehensive and thorough investigation will assuage those doubts", he added.

The horrific indent is the third murder of a journalist in the European Union amid concerns over press freedom.

We condemn any effort to intimidate journalists from reporting on corruption.

RSF called for other journalists at the station to have police protection while the investigation takes place. In a summary, the organization noted that "corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs is widespread".

Through a United Nations spokesperson, Secretary-General António Guterres called on "all governments to strengthen press freedom and ensure there is accountability for crimes committed against journalists".

Amidst the events, vigils have been planned in Ruse, Vidin, Pleven, and the capital city of Sofia.

Bulgaria is ranked 111 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom - lower than any other state in the EU.


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