Bulgaria’s ban on former communist secret agents heading public media is unconstitutional, court says

Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court has overturned provisions in a 1998 law barring officers and staff of the communist-era State Security secret service from heading the public broadcasters or being members of the electronic broadcast regulator, the Council for Electronic Media.

The law was put in place in amendments to the Radio and Television Act by former ruling centre-right party GERB, as part of a policy to clean the top echelons of Bulgaria’s public life from the old communist secret service networks.

In the course of 2013, new directors-general already have been appointed to public broadcasters Bulgarian National Radio and Bulgarian National Television, so the abolition of the “lustration” clauses by the Constitutional Court will be applicable only at the next round of appointments, in about three years’ time.

The amendments were challenged in the Constitutional Court earlier this year by a group of MPs from the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

Of the 12 judges of Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court, two were absent, seven voted to overturn the amendments and three were opposed. These proportions are not dissimilar to those in the controversial outcome of the Constitutional Court case on whether Delyan Peevski is an MP.

Bulgarian site Mediapool noted that the October 11 2013 decision was expected, given the long-standing practice of the Constitutional Court to remove any lustration provisions from Bulgarian legislation.

The majority in the court said that lustration law was contrary to international law and international treaties to which Bulgaria is a party.

It said that a negative view of State Security should not affect the exercise of the constitutional rights of citizens in a modern democratic society. Lustration was inherently discriminatory and unconstitutional, the court said.

The three dissenting judges said that the law that created the Dossier Commission was adopted not solely to provide access to information about State Security, but to make possible informed judgments about the suitability of people to hold or to be appointed to such posts.

(Photo: Colin Brough/sxc.hu)




The Sofia Globe staff

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