Who was Viktoria Marinova? TV Host and Investigative Journalist Found Raped and Murdered

Bulgarian authorities have launched an investigation into the killing of investigative journalist Viktoria Marinova, 30, who was found dead in the city of Ruse on Saturday.

Her body was discovered by a passerby close to the Danube river bank in the city, which is northeast of the capital Sofia, officials said during a press conference on Sunday. Marinova had been raped, beaten and strangled, media outlet Balkan Insight reported, citing local police.

Iliyan Enchev, deputy regional chief of the Interior Ministry in Ruse, told reporters the journalist could not immediately be identified, according to Radio Free Europe. He said that her mobile phone was missing and one of her shoes had been found "several meters away" from her body.

Marinova was positively identified by her family on Saturday evening, Balkan Insight reported. Police are now probing if the killing was linked to her work—but there are no suspects yet.

Prosecutor Georgy Georgiev told press: "Her death was caused by blows to the head and suffocation, and her mobile phone, car keys, glasses and some of her clothing were missing." Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, told reporters a "large amount" of DNA had been collected. Interior Minister Mladen Marinov called the death "exceptionally brutal," CNN reported.

In comments carried by the Sofia-based news agency Focus, Marinov said that investigators would now be working to identify any "contacts and problems" she had before the murder.

Marinova was a board member of the Ruse-based television station TVN, where she recently started presenting a show called Detector. In one of her last reports, she had interviewed two investigative reporters—Atila Biro from website Rise Project, and Dimitar Stoyanov from Bivol.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), citing local news website Terminal 3, the men had been looking into alleged fraud involving European Union (EU) funds, while working alongside the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

In September, the two reporters had been detained by Bulgarian police. Reporters Without Borders said they were arrested after taking pictures of evidence tied to the misuse of EU money by Bulgarian firms. Bivol claimed to have found "large-scale corruption."

"[The] CPJ is shocked by the barbaric murder of journalist Viktoria Marinova," commented its EU representative, Tom Gibson, from Brussels. "Bulgarian authorities must employ all efforts and resources to carry out an exhaustive inquiry and bring to justice those responsible."

Shocked by horrific murder of investigative journalist Victoria Marinova in #Bulgaria. Urgently call for a full and thorough investigation. Those responsible must be held to account. #journosafe #SOFJO

— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) October 7, 2018

The owner of Bivol, Asen Yordanov, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that his website had been informed its staff was in danger due to the ongoing investigation into EU cash.

"Viktoria's death, the brutal manner in which she was killed, is an execution. It was meant to serve as an example, something like a warning," Yordanov told the news agency.

Marinova is the third journalist to be murdered in an EU country in fewer than 12 months.

Her death comes after Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb in Malta in October 2017, and reporter Ján Kuciak was shot dead at his home in Slovakia in February this year.

In the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, Bulgaria is rated 111 out of 180 countries, the lowest of any country in the EU. In a summary, the organization noted that "corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs is widespread."

In a statement published by Reuters, Marinova's TV station commented: "With great pain and insurmountable grief the TVN's team is experiencing the loss of our beloved colleague Viktoria Marinova and we pray for sympathy to the sorrow of her relatives and colleagues."