This past weekend, 30-year-old Bulgarian investigative journalist Victoria Marinova was raped and killed, her body found in a park in the city of Ruse in northeastern Bulgaria. She had been the host of a new talk show called "Detective," an outlet for investigative reporters to expose corruption in a country widely known as one of the most corrupt nations within the European Union, and one of the worst in terms of freedoms granted to the press.
While investigators and Interior Minister Mladen Marinov disregarded the case as nothing more than a rape and murder, others within the international community, such as Sven Giegold, a German member of the European Parliament, fear that her brutalization and murder are warnings to those whom would speak out against widespread misuse of E.U. funds, among a host of other illegalities committed by the Bulgarian government.
Her death signals the fourth high-profile journalist slain in Europe since 2017, among them Mr. Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova (who were slain after Mr. Kuciak began investigating connections between top government officials and organized crime in Slovakia) and Ms. Caruana Galizia (who was killed by a bomb planted underneath her car after researching money laundering and fraud amongst the Maltese business and political elite). These deaths were meant to serve as a political message against those whom would fight back against corruption and blatant infringements of law by the upper class.
The threat against free speech spans across continents to the Middle East, as U.S. resident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappeared inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey and is presumed dead, allegedly for criticizing Saudi Arabia's continued role in relation to the conflict in Yemen (in which at least 6500 civilians have been killed), as well as his dissident take on the inhumane manner in which the Kingdom repressed opposition from human rights activists, intellectuals, and religious leaders alike.
While Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to Washington decries any allegations of his death by the government as false and baseless, as no body was recovered, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called upon the Saudi leadership to prove that Khashoggi left the consulate. His death was also seen as an attempt by an oppressive regime to silence the voices of dissent against abject cruelty and unjust punishment of those who dare to stand up for their fellow human beings against an autocratic system of government.
This strategy of silencing the press is not uncommon in totalitarian leadership — indeed, almost every tyrannical government in history has controlled the stream of information leaking out into the collective populace.
During his rise to the Chancellor's, Adolf Hitler undermined journalists who attempted to speak the truth about his genocidal policies by destroying media credibility (very much in the same manner that current U.S. President Donald Trump is doing now) to establish total control for the Nazi Party takeover, and Joseph Stalin exerted an iron grip on the media outlets that dared to oppose the policies of the Kremlin, halting free speech until the 1980s.
It's a simple tactic, but all the more effective for the terror it inspires amongst the citizens controlled by the regime. By effectively holding sway over the manner in which news is disseminated amongst the people, a regime can spread information supporting its stance and utilize propaganda to maintain a semblance of order amongst its constituents. If any dare to oppose their policies, crushing them in a public manner allows that regime to showcase its might as well as discourage any form of objection against their platform, instilling fear into would-be protestors and thereby preserving power over the masses.
Needless to say, these killings have undermined the concept of the freedom of the press and have shown the world that the hand of tyranny still exists and must be stopped. The right to free speech and expression of diverse thought is a universal liberty that we all have the authority to claim as human beings. None should deny us from this ubiquitous license, and it is, therefore, a duty of humanity to rise up against the tyranny that threatens to encroach itself upon our inalienable rights.
I don't pretend to presume that this is an easy task for anyone, but I do know that oppressors who deny the basic constitutions of human decency to their people must be denied at every opportunity, lest we fall into darkness. For the sake of our future as free beings on this planet, we must fight back against those whom would suppress our voices, and we must stand as one people against tyranny in order to prevail and bring about a new dawn.