Bulgarian Journalist Cleared of Scandalous Sentence, Kind of

Crime | September 14, 2012, Friday // 21:44|  views

Ruse-based journalist Asya Pencheva has been sentenced for her investigative work. Photo by pencheva.com

A Bulgarian district court has revoked a scandalous sentence on a local journalist for publishing a story about abuse in a local orphanage.

At the end of June the Regional Court in Bulgaria's Danube city of Ruse sentenced Asya Pencheva, who works for the local Utro ("Morning") paper, finding her guilty of slandering an employee of the Nadezhda ("Hope") orphanage.

Asya Pencheva is sentenced over a story dating back to July 2011 when she published an interview about abuses of an orphan in the Nadezhda orphanage.

An employee of the institution, social pedagogue Tsenka Blagoeva, whose name is involved in the case, however, felt insulted by the publication, and filed a suit demanding a compensation of BGN 3 000.

Thus, Pencheva was sentenced to pay Blagoeva a compensation of BGN 1000 (EUR 500), and to public censure on the local municipality-owned radio.

The district court ruling, which clears Pencheva, however does not put an end to her trial, but transfers it back to be reviewed again from the very beginning.

"For me, the victory is still too far away, as the District Court did not consider the case on its merits and refused to accept the recorded materials s evidence in court on the grounds that it was made under the requirements of the Penal Code. I do not want a walkover, but a real battle for the truth," the journalist commented on Friday.

Pencheva's sentencing spurred an outrage in Ruse, and among Bulgarian journalists.

The story published by Pencheva is based on a taped conversation with an employee of the orphanage in which the employee reveals that orphans are often beaten. Thus, Pencheva is believed to have complied with international journalistic standards in drafting the story.

Her sentencing is paradoxical, as the Bulgarian press abounds with tabloids publishing apparently abuse stories that have no way of being verified.

Pencheva has a 10-year experience as a journalist, and in 2010 she received the Chernorizets Hrabur Journalistic Award (meaning "Brave Monk" – named after a 9th century Bulgarian author).

In addition to her work for the Ruse paper, Pencheva also has an investigative website pencheva.com where she publishes additional stories.

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Tags: Asyq Pencheva, journalist, Ruse, journalists, Ruse Regional Court, sentence, media freedom, press freedom, orphanage, orphans, orphan, orphanages, abuse, social worker, SEEMO, South and East Europe Media Organization


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