The European Commission urged Bulgaria on Monday to conduct a rapid investigation into the killing of journalist Viktoria Marinova, as hundreds of mourners held vigils in her hometown and cities throughout the Balkan Country.
Prosecutors said the 30-year-old had been raped, beaten and suffocated.
Marinova’s body was found in a park near the Danube River in Ruse on Saturday.
“There is no democracy without a free press. We expect a swift and thorough investigation to bring those responsible to justice,” the European Commission, the European Union’s executive said in a tweet.
Bulgaria ranked 111 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index this year, lower than any other EU member.
While there has been no link established to her work so far, the killing 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 rapped by the European Commission.
On her last aired TV show, on September 30, Marinova introduced two journalists who were investigating alleged corruption involving EU funds.
She said the regional current affairs show, “Detector’’, would do similar investigations.
Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said a bank transfer of 16.06 million dollars had been frozen as part of a pre-trial investigation into issues raised by the investigative journalists on the show but declined to give further details.
“There is no way that I can believe that this killing is random, after it happened just few days after the show that featured such massive misuse of funds. I am glad so many people are here,’’ said Stoyka Panagonova, a mother of three, at the vigil in Ruse.
The European anti-fraud office OLAF declined to comment on the killing.
However, its press office said it was “aware of allegations concerning possible misuse of EU funds in Bulgaria that have been brought to light by journalists in recent weeks’’.
Marinova’s appearance on “Detector’’ was the first time she had anchored the show on Ruse-based TV station TVN – a popular channel in northeastern Bulgaria.
Previously, she was best known for presenting a regional lifestyle show and was not a household name nationally.