The minister responsible for the Bulgarian Presidency Lilyana Pavlova, who met this morning (11 January) with the group of 56 journalists invited to attend the inauguration of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, was asked a question regarding this website.
Pavlova was extremely negative in her reply, saying that she didn’t even want to talk about it, and that it spread ‘hate speech’ and ‘fake news’, and that its initiator worked “against his country”.
Pavlova was answering a question by Finnish journalist Pekka Mykkanen who asked her about this website and more in general about the poor record of Bulgaria in terms of media freedom.
Pavlova said nothing about media freedom, but was obviously happy to attack the website. She said:
“I don’t even want to mention that website, because I’m not in favour of promoting any kind of initiative of someone who is trying really to work against his country. It is not the official website of the Presidency. This website, even though it’s duplicating the name of the Bulgarian Presidency, it is not the official site, and it is not the site who should be taken into consideration of having any national presidency position on any topic. We do have an official website and this is the only website presenting the Bulgarian positions or the Presidency conclusions. I don’t think there is a need to talk about it or promote something because with you, we rely on you and that the freedom of media does not mean that we shall have to allow hate speech, and we have to allow fake news.”
As the initiator of this website, I would like to say that my main motivation to start the project is the dismal situation with media freedom in Bulgaria, described in a White Paper published yesterday. I’m not surprised that Pavlova said nothing about the situation with media freedom in Bulgaria.
Unfortunately, media freedom in Bulgaria has constantly deteriorated since the country joined the EU. The 2017 media freedom index of Reporters Without Borders ranks Bulgaria as number 109. This is what Reporters without borders say about Bulgaria: “Bulgaria is ranked lower in the World Press Freedom Index than any other European Union member. This is due to an environment dominated by corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs”.
The situation with media freedom in Bulgaria has constantly deteriorated in recent years. When Bulgaria joined in 2007, it was ranked 51st.
My motivation is therefore to fill to the extent possible the void in terms of free and independent reporting about the presidency, and about Bulgaria in general. I’m not doing this alone, as three Bulgarian journalists are contributing to the website from Sofia. I’m not “working against my country”, we are rendering a service to our country. I consider this as my duty as a journalist and as a citizen.
Regarding the name of the website, it was Pavlova herself who said that the Bulgarian Presidency is not of the government, it’s of everybody. I clearly indicate that this is “a journalistic project to monitor and accompany the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU”.
After consulting with lawyers, I could take Pavlova to a Belgian court (not a Bulgarian one) for defamation. I am also Belgian national, my website is run from Belgium, and I consider her comments detrimental to my work.
Signed: Georgi Gotev