Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, condemned today the murder of Bulgarian journalist Bobi Tsankov, who was shot dead by two unidentified attackers in Sofia on 5 January. He was the author of a book and a series of articles on organized crime in Bulgaria.
“I condemn the brutal murder of Bobi Tsankov,” said Ms Bokova. “It seems clear that he was targeted because he was revealing information about criminal activities. Such a brazen attack jeopardizes freedom of expression and freedom of the press, rights that are basic and essential to ensure a democratic society. This crime cannot go unpunished; I call on Bulgarian authorities to pursue their investigation until the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Starting last September, Mr Tsankov had written a series of articles in the newspaper Weekend detailing the activities of alleged crime bosses. He had also published a book in December entitled “The Secrets of the Gangsters” and was preparing a new book about drug-trafficking, according to press reports. Mr Tsankov, 30, was killed when at least two gunmen opened fire on him and two other men, identified as his bodyguards, at noontime on busy Aleksandur Stamboliiski Boulevard. There had been previous attempts on his life.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Bulgaria has seen a wave of organized crime in recent years. Another popular crime chronicler, Georgi Stov, who had written books about the Bulgarian criminal underworld, was shot dead on the street in Sofia in 2008.
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this the Organization is requested to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”