The Union of Publishers in Bulgaria, which represents a small number of press outlets outside the quasi-press monopoly of Delyan Peevski, a shady power broker, presented today a White Paper on media freedom in Bulgaria , in which they paint a very worrying picture of the country’s media landscape.
The Union of Publishers in Bulgaria (UPB) is an independent, non-governmental and non-political body representing print and online media in Bulgaria. Members of UPB are mainly independent media, among others – Economedia AD, publisher of Capital and Dnevnik, Sega EAD – publisher of Sega newspaper, Zebra BGN AD, publisher of Club Z magazine and clubz.bg, Mediapool OOD – publisher of mediapool.bg, Mit Press OOD, publisher of Manager Magazine.
The White Paper depicts the evolution in the Bulgarian media landscape in recent years, the rise of Peevski’s empire and his links with the failed Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB, also known as Corpbank), the fourth largest in the country, whose failure, in June 2014 triggered the collapse of the then Bulgarian government of Plamen Oresharski.
The paper says that in the following three years (2014-2017) a massive campaign takes place with the participation of Peevski’s media, the state prosecution and Boyko Borissov, with the aim of unravelling the democratic community and discrediting its political leaders.
“The victory of GERB (Borissov’s party) in the 2017 parliamentary elections and the formation of the third Borissov cabinet with the discrete support of the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS) open the door for the full privatisation of the state institutions. The model “Peevski” is instituted, which unites the political and personal interests of the leaders of several political parties around the third Borissov cabinet, which controls two thirds of the votes in Parliament and has a stong influence on the only opposition force – The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP)”, the paper says.
The independent media and journalists in Bulgaria have been subject of unprecedented pressure and of countless obstacles for their very existence. If the various issues raised in this White Paper are not addressed adequately, the free media in Bulgaria will disappear completely, the document reads.
The Union of Publishers calls on the European Union and the European Commission to consider media freedom as one of their most important criteria vis-à-vis the member countries.
They call on the Commission to exercise control over the way the budgets for communicating EU programs in Bulgaria are spent. The Union of Publishers estimates that those budgets exceed the income from advertising for all the media in the country.
In an small market in which the Bulgarian media don’t succeed to maintain a sustainable business model, the EU funds are used by the government to fund the government-friendly media, the White Paper says.
“The distribution of sums from the EU funds to a certain category of media completely lacks transparency. This is how the favourable reporting is guaranteed and scandals are absconded”, the Union of Publishers states.
P.S. In February 2013 I published a post titled “Borissov runs his election campaign with EU funds” in my blog “Reuniting Europe”. My story mentions the murky business of the Corporatе Commercial Bank well ahead its bankruptcy. It ends with the question “will the Commission look into the way EU money is used in Bulgaria?”
At least now there is a EU Commissioner responsible for the media from Bulgaria. But Mariya Gabriel is from Borissov’s party.