Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boiko Borissov says that he wants a debate on media freedom in Bulgaria with the participation of European Commissioners.
Borissov was responding on November 14 to a report by the European Commission the day before, on the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) meant to bring Bulgaria up to EU standards in the judiciary and the fight against organised crime and corruption.
In the CVM report, the European Commission noted a “significant deterioration in the Bulgarian media environment over recent years which risks restricting the access of the public to information and can have a negative impact on judicial independence, with targeted attacks on judges in some media.”
Media freedom watchdogs give Bulgaria the lowest ranking among EU countries.
On November 13, EC Vice President Frans Timmermans said that while media freedom was not a topic subject to monitoring as part of the CVM process, it influenced progress in judicial reform and in fighting corruption.
Borissov said that there was “noting that can be seen as a problem by us on this issue”.
“There is nothing hidden in Bulgaria that remains unpublished – just the opposite, there are fake and tabloid news items, as much as you want,” Borissov said.
He said that he had taken part in public events “of the most strongly opposition media” and had never participated in a news outlet considered pro-government.
“It is impossible for the cabinet to be ambushed by the media for weeks on end, to have live broadcasts where people show disrespect to cabinet ministers, and at the same time to claim that media freedom does not exist,” Borissov said.
“An oligarch has created his media to defend what he has stolen, suddenly we should not be touched by this oligarch, whoever he is, speaking in principle,” he said.
Borissov said that any accused could set up a website in hours and then complain of a lack of media freedom.
Speaking to Bulgarian National Radio, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said that the problem of guaranteeing media freedom existed also in other EU countries, not only in Bulgaria.
“Media freedom is important everywhere, and the problem of protecting media freedom is not just a problem for Bulgaria, but in many other countries, even in my native Italy,” Tajani said.
This is not the first time in recent times in 2018 that Borissov has been irked by comments about media freedom in Bulgaria.
In October, after television presenter Viktoria Marinova was murdered in Rousse, Borissov was annoyed by comments by EU-level figures – including Timmermans – that linked her killing to media freedom in Bulgaria. An investigation by police and prosecutors established that her murder was not linked to her profession, but, they said, was a spontaneous attack.