‘ARD’ Article: Shady prospects for freedom of press in Bulgaria

Written by on January 6, 2017 in Bulgaria - No comments

The Bulgarian constitution does guarantee freedom of the press, meaning officially, journalists can report freely and independently, in both private and state-owned media. But in practice things look very different, according to the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ARD). In an article written by editors in their Vienna office, the investigative reporter Ivan Bakalov is being quoted as saying the Bulgarian media were the mouthpiece of politics. In spite of the fact that politicians from the opposition were heard in many media led to the false impression they were free. “There are no media investigations into big corruption scandals”, Bakalov states.

In the article, Orlin Spassov, a professor at the Journalistic Faculty in Sofia, who analyzes media for a foundation, adds another issue. According to him, owners and top managers interfere on a regular basis, regarding content reported in Bulgarian media. He also criticises the fact that in Bulgaria, there is no law which would prohibit politicians to own media. “That is why we have the phenomenon of TV stations run by parties”, he says. As examples, Spassov named “Alpha”, a channel owned by the radical party Ataka, and “Skat”, a TV station owned by the xenophobic, ultra-nationalist National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria.

In the ARD article it also says, state-owned electronic media, which basically consist of nothing more than Bulgarian National Television (BNT), do not have enough funding and are being put under pressure, using that issue. In contracts about “information services”, BNT was guaranteeing sponsors they would not spread negative aspects about them.

Also it says that after 1989, business men, sometimes with political ambitions, who founded their own media, became extremely rich and powerful. The name Peevski is in the article, as the most prominent example.

Finally, the former head of the Bulgarian Council for Electronic Media, Georgi Losanov, is being quoted. He says, strong anti-liberal tendencies and the fact that journalism was increasingly replaced by propaganda, made him very pessimistic about the freedom of the press in Bulgaria. For the coming years, he expected that the latter would be restricted further.

In 2016, the organization Freedom House gave Bulgaria a Press Freedom Score of 40/100, which is among the worst in the entire E.U.. While Freedom House considers the press free in all Western European countries, with the exception of Italy, the press in all of Eastern Europe is listed as “partly free”, with Bulgaria on a very low level.

The ARD article (in German) can be found here.

By im.

Photo by Imanuel Marcus

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