Eleven Bulgarian NGOs have approached the country’s statutory broadcast regulator the Council for Electronic Media over a television interview in which a Bulgarian National Union leader used intolerant language directed against ethnic minorities and LGBTI people.
On April 22, television station bTV interviewed Zvezdomir Andronov, whose Bulgarian National Union hosted a gathering of ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi groups from various parts in Europe at an event at which a “Fortress Europe alliance” was founded.
The Bulgarian National Union is the organiser of the annual Lukov March, held in Sofia every February since 2003 in honour of a pro-Nazi general who led the Union of Bulgarian National Unions in the early 1940s.
The letter from the 11 NGOs on April 25 said that in the television broadcast, the “Fortress Europe” alliance was given thorough coverage, as were the alliance’s aims to “eradicate the influence of Marxism, the Zionist lobby, Masonry, leftist parties and organisations and jihadist groups”.
The NGOs said that Andronov’s statements that “Gypsies, Turks, Armenians and Jews are guests in Bulgaria and, if they are good guests, can safely live here” preach and incite discrimination based on race, nationality and ethnicity and were in direct violation of Article 162 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Article 162 currently contains four clauses, the first of which is: “An individual who preaches or abets racial, national or ethnic hostility, hatred or racial discrimination through the means of communication such as the press, mass media, electronic information systems or through the use of another means, is subject to a penalty of imprisonment for a term up to four years, a fine from 5000 to 1000 leva and public condemnation”.
The letter said: “These disturbing xenophobic statements borrow from the Nazi concept of blood purity and the notion of superhuman and inferior races”.
It said that Andronov’s statements also were in violation of Article 10, clauses 5 and 6 of Bulgaria’s Radio and Television Act.
Clause 5 of the law sets out the inadmissibility of programmes inciting intolerance among citizens. Clause 6 spells out the “inadmissibility of programmes which are contrary to good morals, especially if they involve pornography, extol or condone brutality or violence, or incite hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality”.
The letter said that it was unacceptable to describe as “harmful brainwashing” the advocating for the rights of LGBTI people in Bulgaria and the encouraging of civic society to achieve equal treatment.
“Such extreme views, apart from hate speech, convey clear messages of antisemitism, xenophobia and homophobia,” it said.
The letter, signed by the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom”, the Central Israelite Religious Council, the Marginalia human rights association, the GLAS Foundation, BlueLink Foundation, Bulgarian Fund for Women, Bilitis Foundation Resource Centre, Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria, Maiko Mila Foundation, Sofia Platform Foundation and the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, called on the Council for Electronic Media to address the case.
“We insist that we receive a categorical assurance from bTV Media Group leadership that in future, while respecting the fundamental right to freedom of expression, they will not allow the dignity of Bulgarian citizens to be prejudiced and not provide a platform for hate speech, antisemitic, racist, xenophobic and homophobic statements,” the letter said.