The TV journalist had recently hosted on her show investigative journalists working on corruption. Germany has called for a "fast investigation" to find out what happened to Viktoria Marinova.
A television journalist was brutally murdered in the northern Bulgarian town of Ruse, prosecutors said Sunday. She had been beaten, raped and strangled, authorities said.
Viktoria Marinova, who reported on an investigation into alleged corruption involving European Union funds, died from blows to her head and suffocation, regional prosecutor Georgy Georgiev said.
The 30-year-old's body was found in a park on Saturday. "Her mobile phone, car keys, glasses and part of her clothes were missing," Georgiev said.
Bulgarian Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said there was no evidence to suggest that the murder was linked to her work.
Marinova was a board member of the Ruse-based TV station TVN. She recently reported on an investigation by a group of Bulgarian journalists into companies involved in EU-funded infrastructure projects administered by local authorities.
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Marinova had recently hosted investigative journalists working on corruption in Bulgaria on her morning show
'Worst performer in the EU'
But not everyone believes her death is unconnected to her work.
Daniel Kaddik, media expert and head of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation's office in Bulgaria, told DW that the situation for press freedom in the country is so dire that many citizens immediately thought a political motive was likely behind the murder.
"What is interesting is that Bulgarian civil society has quickly jumped on this case, and nobody has any doubt that it might be a politically motivated act," Kaddik said.
"Bulgaria ranks 111th in the world in terms of press freedom. That makes Bulgaria not only the worst performer in the EU but in the whole of the Balkans."
Calls for speedy investigation
The German Foreign Ministry urged Bulgarian authorities to ensure "there is a fast investigation and that this horrible event will be illuminated as comprehensively as possible." The EU Commission also called for a "swift and thorough" probe into the murder.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov didn't comment on a motive, but said he expects the police to find the perpetrators quickly.
"I am convinced it is a matter of time before the murder would be revealed. The best criminologists were sent to Ruse, let's not press them. A large amount of DNA has been obtained," Borisov said.
Poor press freedom record
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) media freedom representative, Harlem Desir, condemned Marinova's killing on Twitter, saying that "those responsible must be held to account."
Reporters Without Borders, which ranked Bulgaria 111th out of 180 countries in its 2018 World Press Freedom Index, called for an urgent investigation into the murder.
A spokeswoman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag said Marinova's killing was a "continuation of an appalling trend over the last 12 months."
"Doing critical research is becoming increasingly dangerous for investigative journalists in some countries," spokeswoman Elisabeth Motschmann told DW. "Every journalist murder is a cowardly attack on the freedom of the press, and therefore also on free, pluralistic societies."
More journalists killed in EU
Marinova is the third journalist to have been murdered in the EU in a year.
ls/aw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)