BG: Report on the activity of the Journalistic Ethics Commission

by Rayna Nikolova
In 2015, the Ethics Commission for Journalistic Ethics was approached by means of 42 claims (17 of them were well-grounded) for violations of the Ethics Code of the Bulgarian Media (EC), namely of Art. 2.5. EC – ‘Discrimination’ which states:

2.5.1. By paying respect to everyone’s right to live a safe and secure life we are not going to publish materials instigating and encouraging hatred, violence and all forms of discrimination.

2.5.2. We are not going to indicate the racial, religious, ethnical belonging, sexual orientation, mental and physical state if these facts were not of great significance for the meaning of the information.

On 8 September 2015, by Resolution No 26, the Ethics Commission passed a judgment regarding a claim submitted by Iliya Iliev against an online publication at The applicant criticised the following quotations of the publication which, in his opinion, are not in compliance with the provisions of the Ethical Code:

Title: ‘Roma people revolt against an ex-policeman in Razpopovtzi’

  • ‘Tzvyatko Alexandrov shot a boozer in the leg due to the music at high volumes’;
  • ‘Roma people from the village of Razpopovtzi, Elena municipality, revolted after a big quarrel with an ex-policeman from Sofia’;
  • ‘The Roma people want revenge and they state that the ex-cop tortured them and threatened them with a weapon’.

The publication reflects the conflict between the ex-policeman Tzvyatko Alexandrov and representatives of the Roma community in the village of Razpopovtzi, after a crime has been committed and pre-trial proceedings have been constituted. In the opinion of the applicant, the title of the article and the quotations provoke the Bulgarians to fear and hate the Roma people by presenting the Roma community as a terrible threat and a factor of disgust.

The Ethics Commission stated that there is no violation of Art. 2.5.2. EC. The Commission considers the claim as groundless. According to the Commission, the publication is of informative nature and it contains counter points of view which make it a well-balanced and impartial report. The reporter’s narrative follows the chronological order of the development of the event, describing the actual situation and the known case facts in an impartial way. The mentioning of the Ethnicity of the participants in the specific case cannot be considered as a form of discrimination because there is a violation of law and a threat to the security and health of the Bulgarian citizens regardless of their Ethnicity. No emphasis is put on the ethnical belonging and its mentioning has informative nature and it cannot be argued that it corresponds to the other situations in the village of Razpopovtzi.

On 3 November 2015, by Resolution No 43, the Ethics Commission passed a judgment regarding a claim submitted by Valentina Parusheva against an online publication at with the following content:

Title: ‘Roma people destroyed young almond trees’.

Eight young men from the Roma quarter ‘Nadezhda’ in Sliven were arrested for stealing almonds. The thieves, 6 of them underage, have stolen 160 kg. green almonds, according to a police report. Along with the theft, however, they have destroyed young almond trees as well, which were owned by Nikolay Ch. a businessman from Sliven. Pre-trial proceedings were constituted against the thieves.

The applicant states that the report violates art. 2.5.1 EC as well as art. 2.5.2 EC. The complaint was upheld in part by the Ethics Commission. The Commission did not see a violation of art. 2.5.1, but a violation of art. 2.5.2. According to the Commission, the report provides information about real events. In the publication there is no information about provocation or encouragement of a feeling of detestation, malice, hostility, resentment, revenge, appeals for physical encounter and torment over the Roma community or in Bulgaria as a whole or specifically in Sliven.

There is not also an evaluation on the part of the author of the material to lead to the conclusion for partiality and bias in the provision of the news aiming at compromising the Roman community. The Commission does not find any grounds that the announcement of a crime committed from six under-aged individuals out of eight who have committed the criminal act ‘theft’ and who have destroyed young trees – representatives of the Roma ethnos, shall be considered as instigation of hatred, violence and some form of discrimination. And not only this, but according to the Commission there is also no evidence of violation of the dignity of representatives of the Roma ethnos. Therefore, the Commission decided that there is no violation of art. 2.5.1 EC.

But, the Commission did see a violation of art. 2.5.2 EC, which forbids mentioning several indications, one of which is the ethnical belonging of the citizens. An exclusion is admitted – in case of a significant importance for the meaning of the information.

The Commission stated that the indication of the ethnical belonging of the thieves of the 160 kg. almonds in the title and the contents of the journalistic material in the context of the description of an ordinary deed of everyday life – executed by six underage and two full age Bulgarian citizens does not have significant importance for the meaning of the information.

Therefore, the Commission considered the claim as well-grounded.

Rayna Nikolova, New Bulgarian University


The report of the National Council for Journalistic Ethics is available in Bulgarian language here.

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Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –