Police in Bulgaria should conduct a swift and comprehensive investigation to establish whether the assault of newspaper editor Slavi Angelov was as a result of his work as a journalist, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.

Angelov, the editor-in-chief of the weekly 168 Hours newspaper, was reportedly attacked by two masked men armed with metal pipes outside his home in the centre of the capital Sofia at around 9pm on Tuesday March 17. A third man filmed the attack on a mobile phone.

Angelov, a well-known reporter who regularly publishes investigative stories on topics such as gambling, crime and corruption and worked for years at Bulgaria’s 24 Hours newspaper, was left unconscious by the beating.

He is currently in a stable condition and is being treated for stab wounds, a broken leg and facial bruising, according to local media reports.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this vicious attack on Slavi Angelov and urge Bulgarian authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation so that neither the attackers, nor their masters, escape justice”, IPI Head of Europe Advocacy Oliver Money-Kyrle said. “Arrests and prosecutions will send a clear message: attacks and intimidation against Bulgarian journalists will not be tolerated.”

On Wednesday March 18, the country’s Interior Ministry chief secretary appeared to confirm the motive during a television interview, saying “the beating is related to his work”.

In an official statement later posted on its website, the Ministry said it had opened pre-trial proceedings and was confident the attackers would be identified and arrested.

According to reports, the assailants did not steal the laptop that Angelov was carrying with him at the time, indicating the assault was not a robbery.

This statement by IPI is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.