Controversy has erupted over the supposed assault of a Bulgarian television journalist after security camera footage cast severe doubt over an allegation that he was beaten by people he was investigating.
An incident in which Dimitar Vurbanov, a reporter for satirical and investigative show Gospodari na Efira (“Lords of the Airwaves”), supposedly was beaten by people allegedly trading in expired food got national attention, and a call from Prime Minister Boiko Borissov for the perpetrators to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Soon after the incident, two people were taken into 24-hour custody. But after the security camera footage was posted online on Bulgarian websites on September 28, they were released from custody.
Interior shots of the warehouse show a group of people pushing Vurbanov across the room and out of the door. However, an exterior shot shows him falling to the ground – even though, apparently, no one else is present, bar his cameraman.
In the ensuing moments, Vurbanov, who at this point is speaking to his cameraman, stays on the ground for a while, then leans on his elbow, then lies on his back. His cameraman films two police officers arriving, who help Vurbanov to his feet.
Nova Broadcasting Group, on whose channel Gospodari na Efira is shown, issued a statement on September 28 said that although the show is an outside production with a completely independent editorial policy, “Nova Broadcasting Group does not accept such methods, incompatible with the principles of professional investigative journalism”.
The media group distanced itself from the incident and indicated that it may take legal action against the producer.
In court in Veliko Turnovo on September 28, the videos were played at a hearing of the two accused, who had been accused of causing light bodily harm to Vurbanov. The court released the two from custody.
Nova Televizia reported prosecutors as saying that they were considering pressing charges against Vurbanov for obstruction of justice.
Later on September 28, Gospodari na Efira said that Vurbanov had been dismissed from its reporting team. It said that it had not alleged that he had been seriously assaulted, but this had been the media’s interpretation. The statement said that the show would continue to investigate the trade in expired food, which it said was a threat to public health.