There were incidents of aggression against two journalists covering Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s August 5 special national conference of his GERB party, held outdoors at Sofia Tech Park.

Polina Paunova of Radio Free Europe, accompanied by fellow journalist Genka Shikerova, was attempting to use her phone to film a group of burly young men at the perimeter of the event who allegedly had been aggressive towards anti-government protesters.

As shown in a video posted online, a masked young man rapidly approached Paunova, snatched her phone and violently threw it some distance away.

A second attempt to film the men ended in a further assault.

An older man, claimed to be from GERB security, demanded to see Paunova’s press card, addressing her with the words: “Come here, you garbage. You don’t belong here”.

Paunova told Bulgarian National Radio that the provocateurs “looked like ‘football fans’, but their faces were not visible because they were wearing masks”.

During Borissov’s address, his response to weeks of anti-government protests, a young man who heckled him was hauled away from the scene. A report in Mediapool alleged that the young man was assaulted by being struck and having his hair pulled while being removed by GERB activists.

GERB sought to distance itself from the incidents, saying the party strongly dissociated itself from from the actions of “a group of provocateurs who caused clashes at the party’s national conference today”.

“Unfortunately, paid provocateurs broke through the security of the forum and got into arguments with both GERB members and the protesting citizens. Protesters, GERB members and journalists were attacked,” the statement said.

“We urge the investigating authorities to reveal all the facts and circumstances surrounding today’s clashes and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“GERB did not hire additional security for the forum. The security was provided by Sofia Tech Park,” the party said.