ECPMF Fact-Finding Mission to Bulgaria: a toxic environment for free press?

In between all the international applause for the outgoing Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the European Union, we urge the EU institutions to press Bulgaria to uphold the rule of law. Bulgarian authorities must restore freedom of expression and a free press.

ECPMF fact finding mission to Bulgaria National Palace of Culture, Sofia/Bulgaria. ©ECPMF

The ECPMF’s June Fact-Finding Mission to Bulgaria focused on media ownership and media capture as most pressing issues. Interviewees told our fact-finding team about the lack of transparency of media ownership. The cash flow in general bears a high risk of political and economic interference and control. Money from (state) advertising is distributed in obscure ways to compliant media, described as “highly corrupting.” They said the media law is used as a tool to put pressure on journalists. It is difficult to produce quality journalism due to widespread of self-censorship and the struggle to stay independent in a highly dependent market. Besides, the interviewees also described disinformation, smear campaigns against journalists and a lack of trust in the media. All this seems to result in a vicious circle within a captured state.

Tweet Bulgaria UBJ Delegates meeting the Union of Bulgarian Journalists (UBJ). ©ECPMF

After attending the Sofia Digital Assembly, organised by the EU2018BG and the European Commission, with support of our partners from OBCT and SEEMO and our ECPMF member on the ground, we conducted 16 interviews with various experts, media lawyers, journalists, political figures and journalists’ organisations representatives.

In recent years, there have been several alarming reports about the media situation in the country. In the current index of Reporters without Borders, Bulgaria ranked lower than any other European Union member. The ECPMF started the year 2018 with an expert talk in January in Brussels.

An in-depth report with the analysis of the interviews can be found here.

Read more about political interference in Bulgaria here.

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