French 'fake news' firm was hired to report on Bulgarian anti-corruption journalist

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France-based journalist Atanas Chobanov has been described as a 'bête noire' of Bulgaria’s oligarchs over his dogged investigations into high-level corruption in the Balkan country. French economic intelligence and cybersecurity firm Avisa Partners, whose clients include major corporations and dictatorial regimes and which is accused of manipulating online information, has confirmed to Mediapart it was commissioned by an agency it did not name to compile a report on the Bulgarian journalist. The firm insisted it later abandoned its enquiries and kept its “internal analysis report” in-house. Fabrice Arfi and Antton Rouget report.

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Earlier this summer, French company Avisa Partners, self-described as specialised in “economic intelligence, international affairs and cybersecurity”, was the subject of numerous media reports, including by Mediapart, on its alleged manipulation of information published in participative blogs and on the pages of online encyclopedia Wikipedia.