Ms Neelie Kroes
Open letter from Bulgarian journalists
Dear Ms Kroes,
We, a group of Bulgarian journalists, are expecting with hope your official visit to Sofia. We welcomed with great expectations your statement that you consider press freedom in Bulgaria your personal priority, as well as your intention to follow closely the media situation in the country. We consider it extremely important that you receive first-hand information about the actual conditions under which Bulgarian journalists exercise their profession. Therefore, we would like to ask for a public meeting with you and we hope that you will be able to find the time for such an engagement during your busy program.
Unfortunately, we believe that by meeting representatives of the Bulgarian authorities and the two media unions you would not be provided with sufficient and substantial information regarding the political dependance on the media and the corporate and political control exercised on the channels of information, as well as regarding the cases of physical violence on journalists which are not being investigated in practice.
The Bulgarian press is a victim of the war between the two unions of Bulgarian publishers. The majority of the media analyses, commentaries and investigations are targeted only at exposing the opponent side and do not serve the interests of the readers themselves. The rare cases of outspokenness among journalists also occur in the context of the above mentioned conflict. The independent voices, raised by journalists with integrity, fall under the attacks of both sides. At the same time, the concentration of media ownership is rising to dangerous levels.
We are convinced that this conclusions are not just provoked by the subjective feelings of the journalists. In 2011 and 2012 numerous prominent international institutions voiced harsh criticism of the media environment in Bulgaria. Among them were IREX, Freedom House, Reporters without Borders, SEEMO, OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Transparency International, the US State Department. In its report “The Endangered Freedom and Pluralism of the Media” the Bulgarian “Media Freedom” foundation creates a map of the problem of the Bulgarian media, placing political dependence first, followed by limited pluralism, economic dependence, violence on journalists, worsening of the quality of the media content and poor professional standards.
Our concerns are not just a problem of the Bulgarian society, but of the entire European Union, as questions arise not only about European values, but also about the proper use of European funding. The latest example of vicious practices in Bulgaria is the case of a 25-year-old administrator in the Ministry of Agriculture, who received 50 000 EUR for creating Facebook and Twitter profiles of the national program for agricultural development, financed by EU-funds. In addition, a common practice, not only in the above mentioned Ministry, is the use of financial resources, slated for the popularization of operational programs, for purchasing media comfort, because the major source of revenue of the big media in a period of crisis and shrinking advertising market comes from institutional advertisers.
Dear Ms Kroes,
We, as a group of prominent Bulgarian journalists, would like to request a meeting with you so that you can receive credible information about the conditions of journalism in Bulgaria. We would also like to propose solutions and to hear your position. The situation of the media in Bulgaria is a threat not only to Bulgarian society, but to the EU as a whole. Therefore it deserves no less attention than the problems in Hungary, where the EU (and you personally) intervened and expressed your concerns about the attempts of putting limitations to media freedom. We hope that the same will happen in Bulgaria.