RSF: Bulgaria Media Bullied into Silence

Society | December 9, 2010, Thursday // 17:33|  views

Experts in political science and mass communications have been warning that Bulgarian media trends are extremely alarming. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria is one of Europe's most repressive countries towards journalists and the press freedom situation in it is continually deteriorating as media are bullied into silence, according to media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

"Unfortunately Bulgaria lags behind all other European countries in terms of media freedom," Jean-Fran?ois Julliard, General Secretary of Reporters Without Borders, said in an interview for the Bulgarian National Radio.

According to him the press freedom situation in the country remains very difficult mainly because of the political and economic conditions.

"Today media freedom has many more enemies in Bulgaria than a few years ago. In the past the state apparatus was the only one to restrict the journalists. Now the economic interests are taking the upper hand. There are more and more people and groups, who want to bully the journalists into silence. It is not just the state apparatus, but also groups, which exert economic pressure, companies, which want to make the journalists shut up. There are lobbies and thousands of people with links to the mafia, who don't want the journalists to shed light on their criminal activities," said Jean-Fran?ois Julliard.

Asked about the investors in Bulgarian media, Julliard said the main question is who owns the media.

"The financing of the media in Bulgaria is quite unclear. My feeling is that in Bulgaria the owners acquire media not to inform their readers, but serve their personal interests through the media. In other words they increase their clout either for their political or economic interests."

The Bulgarian parliament adopted earlier this year new legislation obliging print media to make the names of their owners public once a year.

The new regulation however will not apply for electronic media and critics have attacked legislators for simply pretending to address the issue, while actually steering clear of putting pressure on the really influential media.

Bulgaria and Greece rank seventieth in the world for media freedom this year, while the press freedom situation in the European Union is deteriorating, according to media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.

The ninth annual World Press Freedom Index, released in October, put several countries together to share the first place – this year it is Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

They have all previously held this honour since the index was created in 2002. Norway and Iceland have always been among the countries sharing first position except in 2006 (Norway) and 2009 (Iceland).

Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly expressed its concern about the deteriorating press freedom situation in the European Union and the 2010 index confirms this trend.

Thirteen of the EU's 27 members are in the top 20 but some of the other 14 are very low in the ranking. Italy is 49th, Romania is 52nd and Greece and Bulgaria are tied at 70th.

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Tags: journalists, World Press Freedom Index, Jean-Fran?ois Julliard, Bulgaria, media, press, newspapers, Reporters without Borders, europe, freedom


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