Three months after appointing him, broadcast regulator the Council for Electronic Media (CEM) has given Bulgarian National Radio Svetoslav Kostov a week to submit his resignation, failing which it will initiate a procedure to oust him.
This emerged at a brief special meeting of CEM on September 27, at which the call for Kostov to resign was adopted by four of the five members of the council. One CEM member, Betina Zhoteva, was not present because she is on leave.
The CEM call was a sequel to the unprecedented event on September 13 when BNR’s popular Horizont morning programme remained off air for five hours.
BNR’s leadership claimed that this was because of technical reasons, but it widely has been linked to the removal from the air of Sylvia Velikova, a morning show presenter who has opposed the appointment of Ivan Geshev as Bulgaria’s next Prosecutor-General.
Velikova was reinstated following the intervention of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov. The matter became the subject of an investigation by prosecutors and other state bodies because statute does not permit public broadcasters to go off air, as a matter of national security.
Also on September 27, Bulgaria’s National Assembly set up an all-party ad hoc parliamentary inquiry to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the interruption of the broadcasting of Horizont by BNR, as well as allegations of political pressure on the radio.
The committee has a two-month deadline to report.
It was set up at the request of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party. BSP MP Anton Kutev said that the most important thing was to establish who had been putting pressure on BNR.
On September 26, a protest organised by the Association of European Journalists Bulgaria was held, against censorship at BNR and widespread pressure on the work of the journalists.
Some days ago, Kostov issued a statement saying that he would not resign, and threatening to take court action against his critics.