Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has ordered two mass-circulation Bulgarian-language media to be fined for what the commission ruled were breaches of electoral laws in connection with the March 26 2017 early parliamentary elections, by publishing articles without identifying them as having been paid for.
The CEC has referred the matter to the Sofia Regional Governor to decide on the precise sanctions.
The commission, in a ruling on March 2, said that daily 24 Chassa had broken the Electoral Act by not meeting the requirements for stating that an article related to the elections had been paid for.
The CEC said that an article in 24 Chassa on February 28 had been accompanied by a set of concentric circles, the outermost one reading “Elections 2017”, the next one “Buying and selling votes is a crime” and the next one with small print that the commission described as almost impossible to read.
This did not comply with the legal requirement to provide a clear and unequivocal notice that the material had been paid for, the commission said, also taking issue with what it ruled were other technical violations of the Electoral Code.
In an article about the CEC decision against it, 24 Chassa hit back on March 3, reporting that the CEC decision had been made a day after the publication produced an article headlined “CEC sabotages the elections”, which criticised the commission over its failure to acquire voting machines for all polling stations, although the Supreme Administrative Court had ruled that this should happen.
The sharply-worded response on the part of 24 Chassa said that the CEC would see the print if it got better spectacles and went on, after rejecting other aspects of the commission’s ruling, to say “we, unlike the CEC, comply with the law”. The newspaper called on the Sofia Regional Governor not to impose a fine, alleging that the commission’s decision was illegal.
The CEC ruling against daily Trud was similar, also in connection with an article published on February 28, saying that nowhere on the page was there a clear and unequivocal notice making it clear that the article had been paid for. There was no immediate public response from Trud.
(Screenshot: The 24 Chassa March 1 article attacking the CEC, alleging that the commission was ‘sabotaging the elections’)