FreeMediaOnline.org, September 8, 2010 –Thirty-two years ago this week, on September 7, 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian émigré journalist, who lived and worked in London, was assaulted in broad daylight on London’s Waterloo Bridge and later died. In February 2010, Time magazine ranked the murder of Georgi Markov at number 5 of the “top 10 assassination plots”, just below the murder of Leon Trotsky in 1940 and the attempt on Adolph Hitler in World War Two. Georgi Markov had been a prolific and successful literary figure in Bulgaria before defecting to the West in 1969. He settled in England and became a broadcast journalist for Radio Free Europe, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), and the German international broadcast service Deutsche Welle.
Anyone curious about the workings of the Soviet and now Russian secret police and the impact of fear on journalists should read a very well-documented book Cold War Radio: The Dangerous History of American Broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989 by Richard H Cummings who for 15 years was the Director of Security for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty RFE/RL in Munich, Germany, and later was a security and safety consultant for RFE/RL in Prague until 1998. Mr. Cummings has also updated with new information and photos his previously published online article in Historytimes.com about the 1978 Georgi Markov murder in London.
In the Markov’s case, the Bulgarian interior minister requested KGB assistance in the killing of the journalist. Russian spy and security services have had a long history of recruting, intimidating and sometimes murdering journalists and others who have run afoul of the Kremlin. This concern was largely forgotten during the Yeltsin years when the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a mismanaged Federal US agency in charge of US government-funded international civilian broadcasting, placed Radio Liberty (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty – RFE/RL) Russian language facilities and staff at a large news bureau in Moscow right under the nose of the FSB, the successor to the KGB.
Markov’s murder happened during the Cold War, but in more recent years the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and of numerous other journalists in Russia, as well as the assassination in London of former KGB and FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who became a vocal critic of Mr. Putin, have brought into focus the question of how safe it is in the post-Cold War world to criticize Russian leaders, especially for journalists living in Russia, but also for anybody living in the West who has ties to Russia. You can read more about the dangers faced by Radio Liberty journalists in the September 2009 FreeMediaOnline.org article The Murder of Georgi Markov: The Mystery Remains – Are Radio Liberty Journalists Now Safe?