IREX: Political, Corporate Pressure Mar Bulgarian Media

Society | April 9, 2012, Monday // 15:37|  views

Bulgarian media are falling below sustainable levels in an increasing number of areas, and the problems in each of the areas with low scores are deepening, according to the US-based organization IREX. File photo

In 2011, the content crisis in the Bulgarian media, which started with the financial crisis in 2008–2009, reached new depths and is already affecting Bulgarian citizens' access to quality media coverage of political, social, and economic developments in the country.

The conclusion comes from a report of the American organization IREX, which measures Media Sustainability Index (MSI) in 80 countries. By "sustainability" IREX refers to the ability of media to play its vital role as the "fourth estate."

Regarding Bulgaria, MSI panelists explain that "unfortunately, signs of political and corporate pressure, editorial bias, sale of news content, and a general decline in the quality and intelligence level of media content now mar journalism in Bulgaria."

The IREX summary on Bulgaria continues as follows;

"Bulgaria's media are falling below sustainable levels in an increasing number of areas, and the problems in each of the areas with low scores are deepening. Most alarmingly, serious violent attacks on journalists, once isolated incidents, seem to be a trend now. While investigations into the crimes are underway, none of the attackers have been identified and prosecuted. There is little public sympathy for the journalists, largely because the perceived integrity of the journalism profession is slipping. Self-censorship has become the norm in most media outlets, and editors actively and willingly impose content restrictions over their media and permit the sale of news content to politicians and corporate sponsors.

The national and local governments' distribution of public funds under different disguises to select media outlets in return for favorable press constitutes another grave problem. The economic crisis in the country has tempted many media outlets into weakening their standards and accepting the funding, which represent a growing part of their budgets and limits greatly their independence.

Another worrying trend is the decline in quality journalism, traced largely to the reasons listed above, but also because of low pay levels and the insufficient availability and resources for professional training. This decline is especially visible in the further shrinking of quality niche reporting—particularly business and culture—and investigative journalism.

At the same time, areas of progress include the professional development of online media, and the unlimited access to traditional and new media that Bulgarian citizens enjoy; such access appears unthreatened. That very plurality is one of the main strengths of Bulgaria's media, along with the well-developed information and communication technology framework and equipment in use by the media. Bulgaria's overall score changed little, although the change was negative once again, continuing an overall trend that has persisted since 2006/2007, when Bulgaria hit its peak of 2.98

The MSI considers all the factors that contribute to a media system—the quality of journalism, effectiveness of management, the legal environment supporting freedom of the press, and more—to arrive at scores on a scale ranging between 0 and 4. These scores represent the strength of the media sector components and can be analyzed over time to chart progress (or regression) within a country. Additionally, countries or regions may be compared to one another.

The full report read HERE.

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Tags: pressure, quality, fourth estate, index, sustainability, sustainable, media, Bulgarian


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