Bulgaria ranked 113th out of 180 countries in international organisation Reporters Without Border’s 2016 Index of Press Freedom, the lowest score among European Union member countries.
Reporters Without Borders handed Bulgaria the score citing a media environment dominated by corruption and collusion between the media, politicians and oligarchs.
The organisation named these oligarchs as included Delyan Peevski, a controversial business person and MP for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, who formerly denied that he was a media owner, later announced media ownerships and recently has been announcing divestitures from media ownerships.
Reporters Without Borders described the Financial Supervision Commission as a “media cop” because of its impositions of fines, ordering of journalists to reveal their sources and preventing them from shedding light on the problems of banks in the country.
Bulgaria has dropped seven places compared with its rating in 2015. In the 2016 rating, among European countries, only the Republic of Macedonia (118) and Russia (148) rank lower than Bulgaria.
Reporters Without Borders says there has been a “deep and disturbing decline” in respect for media freedom at levels both regional and global, the Voice of America reported.
The group said in its annual report released on April 20 2016 that the world is entering a “new era of propaganda” and a reluctance to engage in free debate. The group said many world leaders have developed “paranoia” about journalists and are cracking down on the media, while privately-owned media outlets are increasingly under pressure from corporate interests.
Reporters Without Borders said the situation is particularly grave in Latin America, due to institutional violence, organized crime, corruption, and media concentration.
Eritrea was ranked the worst worldwide on overall media freedom, falling below Syria, China, and North Korea.
Finland was ranked highest, followed by the Netherlands and Norway. The United States, where the major problem was reported to be cybersurveillance, was ranked 41st.
The report says the situation globally has deteriorated significantly in the past few years. It attributes the decline to a rise in the authoritarian nature of some governments, such as those in Egypt and Turkey; security situations that have become more dangerous, such as in Libya, Yemen, and Burundi; and tighter government control of state-owned media, even in some European countries such as Poland.
The report also notes legislative pressure on media, in nations where there are laws against such things as blasphemy, insulting those in power, or supporting terrorism. The effect, Reporters Without Borders says, is self-censorship.
The group also notes that media freedom is damaged by governments that are quick to suspend internet access to their citizens.
The report says every continent has seen a decline in media freedom over the past three years.
The Americas’ score has dropped 20.5 per cent since 2013, due mostly to attacks on journalists in Mexico and Central America.
Extremist movements and ultraconservative governments in Europe and the Balkans contributed to a 6.5 per cent drop, and in eastern Europe and central Asia, the report says, a five per cent drop is blamed on an “increasingly glacial environment” for media freedom and free speech in nations with authoritarian regimes.
(Photo: Brano Hudak/sxc.hu)