Head of Bulgarian National Television resigns after court upholds drink-driving conviction

Written by on April 24, 2019 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Head of Bulgarian National Television resigns after court upholds drink-driving conviction

At a special sitting on April 24, Bulgaria’s statutory broadcast regulator the Council for Electronic Media (CEM) voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Koko Kamenarov as director-general of public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television after his appeal against a conviction for drink-driving was rejected by a court.

CEM voted Kamenarov into office in August 2017. He had been in his first term as head of BNT.

Bulgarian law forbids heads of public broadcasters to hold office if they have been convicted of certain crimes, including drink-driving.

The special sitting of CEM followed a Sofia City Court ruling on April 22 upholding Kamenarov’s conviction and sentence of one year and three months in prison, suspended for three years, and a 600 leva fine.

Kamenarov had been intercepted by police in the early hours of June 23 2016 driving with a blood-alcohol level more than double the allowable limit. He challenged the initial conviction, claiming the influence of a herbal medicine he had been taking, and calling into question the validity of the blood sampling process. The Sofia City Court ruling of April 22 was final and not subject to appeal.

CEM appointed BNT programme director Emil Koshlukov as interim director-general of the station, for three months, after which a new director-general will be appointed. Bulgarian National Radio reported that of the five members of CEM, three voted in favour of the interim appointment of Koshlukov, one against and one abstained.

Current law provides for the head of the public broadcaster to hold office for three years, renewable for a further three.

It is expected that a new director-general of Bulgarian National Radio will be appointed in the coming weeks, following the expiry of the incumbent’s term. The head of BNR also has a three-year term.

However, there have been moves for Parliament to change these terms from three to five years, and to ease the criteria regarding professional experience. Recently, changes to this effect were tabled jointly by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, but were withdrawn less than 24 hours later. At the time, the explanation for the withdrawal that was given was that there were “technical errors” in the draft law, and that those behind the bill “did not want to be perceived as interfering in the election of the head of BNR”.

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