Journalists give poor mark to press freedom in Bulgaria, according to an AEJ-Bulgaria poll

From AEJ

2011-10-21 01:24:36   |  Views: 9080  |    |  0 comment(s)

“Bad” is the assessment for the freedom of speech in Bulgaria according to the evaluation of journalists who took part in the AEJ -Bulgaria's survey on press freedom. They were asked to use a five scale method (5-excellent; 4-good; 3-satisfying; 2-bad; 1- very bad) in order to assess the level of  freedom of expression in the country.

As a result, 48 participants out of 113 rated  media freedom in Bulgaria as “bad”.  Only 4 journalists stated that the  freedom of speech is “excellent”, whilst 5 of them thought it was “good”. According to 41 of the participants the freedom of  speech was “satisfying”, while 15 said it was “very bad”.

The online survey was carried out in the period August-September 2011 among  Bulgarian journalists working in print media, radio, TV stations, online media as well as bloggers. It was popularized through sending e-mails directly to the journalists and through different publications in the media.

Most of the journalists who participated in the survey work in the capital city of Sofia. According to the results of the poll, their most common profile of the participants is the following: working in Sofia (95 of all participants), representative of a print media (65), working for a private media (94). An interesting result is that predominantly the media professionals from Sofia assess the freedom of expression as “ bad”, while those who work in different regions of the country state find it “satisfying”.

Political pressure remains the crucial problem for the work of the journalists, as they declare. 58 out of the 113 in total pointed out this particular obstacle for the freedom of expression.  Economic pressure on their work was identified by 28 of the participants, while the same number of journalists denied having had such an experience. Different kinds of pressure were announced by 22 and the rest of the participants opted out of answering this particular question.

According to 57 of the journalists the media for which they work is under political pressure, 45 of them said their employer is under economic pressure, while only 12 declared that they haven’t experienced any kind of pressure ( the rest of the participants stated different kinds of pressure or opted out of answering)*.

The question if there were restraints on writing critically about big media advertisers received a positive answer by 30 of the participants. According to 34 of them such materials are unlikely to be approved by their editorial teams, and 23 declared that such practice is totally banned at their working place.  Direct witnesses of attacks against the freedom of speech have been 82 of the participants in the survey.

The poll was anonymous, but journalists could choose to announce their names. However, only 12 of them had the courage to do so ( 9 of whom were women).

A total of 22 journalists shared comments or reported about specific cases of restrictions on  freedom of speech. The most frequent situation is the one where advertisers and politicians apply pressure by  calling  the editors-in-chief. Two of the participants said they have been fired after the publishing/broadcasting of a certain material which had affected economic or political interests. One of these cases is concerning a journalist who had excellent achievements in his/her field of expertise and had  a number of international awards.

Several quotations of the journalists' comments in the survey are listed here ( we abstain from publishing the whole content of these comments in order to protect the identity of those journalists):

 On economic pressure:

...nowadays the economic dependence of the privately owned media determines directly the journalistic work, as well as the connections of the media owners with economic groups and companies....

...close connection of the publications with the fact if a certain company is an advertiser for their media...Mainly paid material are being written...

....The disappearing of a satiric show in one of the national TV channels after the direct intervention and threatening with financial sanctions by the factual owner of a banking institution, who has interests in the sector of tourim and  winter sports...

Widespread dependence on large advertisers. For example – there was a crack down of the IT system of a big telecommunication company that concerned millions of  consumers, but it was never covered by the media...

The widespread pressure which a private bank, and also an investor in a winter sports resort, uses to limit the scandal around Bansko ...

A broadcasting show didn't speak out about a signal for violations by one of the mobile operators because of close connection with it...

...pressure applied by a company, also an advertiser, by threatening that the advertising contract will be cancelled if the media continues to write critical articles ...

... Verbal pressure from powerful economic actors on the management of the media ...

... I have received instructions to write critical articles about companies and other institutions, which had refused to advertise in the media, or about subjects in direct conflict with the employer ...

On political pressure:

I was prohibited to question the ministers ....

...there is a high inflow of compromises in the media.
... Direct telephone calls from senior officials with instructions on what to pe placed in a publication and what not be, and also what should be the order of their presentation…

... by angry phone calls to publishers or to the editor  from the ministers concerned ...

Pressure on a policeman, media pressure included, who announced the donation practices of the Interior affairs ministry and the lists of the donors favored ...

On media environment:

The concentration of media ownership is at the expense of media freedom…

... there is no legal entity in Bulgaria which monitors freedom of speech ...

 

* The questions on the pressure and type of media allows for more than one answer

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