Anna Zarkova | 1998 Courage in Journalism Award
Trud Daily, Bulgaria
Anna Zarkova is chief of the Criminal News Department for Trud Daily. She has been awarded national prizes for her stories exposing organized crime, police violence and corruption, but has also received threats because of these articles.
In May 1998 the threats turned to reality when Zarkova was attacked. She was severely burned when a man threw sulfuric acid on her while she was waiting for a bus. From her hospital bed following the attack, she implored her fellow journalists not to be deterred: “Colleagues, for us there is no other way. If they don’t splash acid in your face as a journalist, tomorrow they will kill you in the street as a citizen.”
Zarkova received burns on the left side of her face and body, and the damage to her left eye was so severe, it had to be removed in 1999. An arrest has yet to be made in the attack, but police suspect a man connected to Bulgaria’s underworld.
She is determined to keep fighting. “Before our nine-year-old Bulgarian civil society had a chance to walk steadily, it was endangered by the outburst of the criminal revolution. Many Bulgarian journalists felt that they should step to the front line and join the fight to save their country from the criminal Mafia. I was wounded in the battle, but I managed to survive… I believe that free speech can only be possible if we keep in mind the romantic phrase of the Three Musketeers: ‘One for all and all for one!'”
Anna Zarkova is the first IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winner from Bulgaria.