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As EU Presidency Approaches, Worries Spread Over Bulgaria’s Press Freedom

Country’s appalling record includes beatings and intimidation of journalists in an environment dominated by corruption.   

13 November 2017

With less than two months left until it takes the presidency of the Council of the European Union, Bulgaria’s press freedom record is under scrutiny – and the picture doesn’t look good.


The low rankings on international press freedom indexes are compounded by stories of journalists being affected once their work touches a nerve involving political interests, according to RFI, a French current affairs radio station.


RFI details the case of investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who wrote about the smuggling of weapons into Syria via an Azerbaijani airline for the Trud daily. She was fired this past August soon after being interrogated by the state security agency for using leaked documents. 


Bulgaria is the lowest ranked EU country in the Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom index. Image: Art Comments / Flickr


 “There are many cases like this, it is a pattern. Journalists are being either physically attacked with violence, intimidated, or harassed, or fired from their jobs or demoted,” Lada Trifonova Price, an expert on the media in post-communist societies, at the Sheffield Hallam University, told RFI.


Last month, a Bulgarian lawmaker announced his resignation to limit damage to the ruling party after he and a deputy prime minister hinted that a TV host risked being sacked for pressing them on controversial topics.


Bulgaria ranks 109th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom index. Color-labeled red, which reflects its “bad” ranking, Bulgaria is the lowest-ranking EU country “due to an environment dominated by corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs including Delyan Peevski.”


A controversial businessman and member of parliament, Peevski had a short-lived appointment in 2013 to lead the State Agency for National Security, which led to large nationwide protests that almost brought down the government. Peevski and his mother, Irena Krasteva, a former head of the state lottery, are the owners of several of the country's major media outlets. Last year, he announced that he would give up his business ventures in Bulgaria because of “unfounded political pressure and a continuous media campaign,” Balkan Insight wrote at the time.  



  • Still, Bulgaria’s ranking marked an improvement from 2016, when the country scored 4 places lower. 


  • During a Brussels visit last week, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that Sofia’s upcoming position at the EU helm "is an opportunity for us to bring the Western Balkan on board as the UK withdraws from the EU," according to EUobserver.


  • In addition to bringing more EU funds to the region, other highlights of the presidency would be the digital market, cyber security, migration, competitiveness, and the seven-year EU budget.


  • The council’s presidency rotates every six months among EU members. New presidential terms start on 1 January and 1 July of a particular year, according to the EC website

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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