Bulgaria’s centre-right former ruling party GERB has backtracked on a proposal to include in the new election code a provision for fines of up to 20 000 leva (10 000 euro) for media that publish stories damaging the “good name” of election candidates.
The proposal already had been adopted with the support of the other three parties in the 42nd National Assembly, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and ultra-nationalists Ataka.
The measure had caused controversy not only for the scale of the penalties but also for lack of clarity about the criteria for imposing such fines, who would impose them and whether there would be a mechanism for appeal.
A day after making the proposal, GERB withdrew it, on the day that there was extensive media reporting about the measure.
However, all media will still be obliged to publish or broadcast immediately right of reply by an affected party, without adding editorial comment.
Candidates who believe that their reputations have been damaged by media reporting also will be free to defend their rights in court.
GERB MP Krassimir Tsipov, a lawyer, said that provided that no one sought to restore the proposal for the penalties for the media when the election code was tabled for debate and voting in plenary in Parliament, there would be no such penalties.
Earlier, on a breakfast television show on February 7, GERB MP Dessislava Atanasova and BSP MP Tatyana Burudzhieva both sought to defend the initial proposal adopted by the ad hoc committee on the election code providing for the huge fines for media reports damaging the reputation of candidates.
Atanasova said that the proposal was intended against smear campaigns in the media during election campaigns, while Burudzhieva said that the intention of the text was not to intimidate the media, but to prevent “blatant violations”.
(Photo: Jakub Krechowicz/sxc.hu)