The Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria (AEJ-Bulgaria) calls on all Bulgarian journalists and media professionals to stand with Viktor Nikolaev, the host of the morning talk show of Nova Television, who received threats from representatives of the ruling political parties on air on October 6 (Friday).
We believe the Bulgarian media should boycott the politicians who openly pressure journalists and show disregard for freedom of expression, which is a fundamental precondition for the existence of a democratic society.
During the Friday’s edition of the morning talk show of Nova Television, Anton Todorov, a member of parliament from the ruling GERB party and a deputy chair of the parliamentary commission for anti-corruption, conflict of interests and parliamentary ethics, found Nikoleav’s put unacceptable political pressure on the host in response to questions he found uncomfortable.
“You are using very strong words. They will take your bread, as they already did in relation to your colleague. She was also moving in some direction, but I see her chair is missing,” Todorov said.
Todorov was referring to Ani Tsolova, a prominent TV journalist who co-costed the programme together with Nikolaev until Nova Television announced in September, somewhat unexpectedly, that Nikolaev would remain the sole host while Tsolova would become the host of a new lifestyle show.
If the GERB party does not immediately withdraw its political support for Todorov, his words can be taken as a confession that the government is putting pressure on one of the largest TV stations in Bulgaria and is practically responsible for Tsolova’s stepping down as co-host of the morning talk show.
Todorov’s threats to Nikolaev were reaffirmed later in the same talk show by Valeri Simeonov, a deputy prime minister for economic and demographic policy and a co-chairman of the United Patriots coalition. Irritated by some questions, Simeonov also pointed to Tsolova’s empty chair.
Todorov’s and Simeonov’s words essentially constitute an attempt at censorship as they clearly show that “inconvenient” questions are not only to the dislike of the ruling elite, but can also lead to actions against the journalist asking them. Their statements demonstrate the government’s attitude toward the media. Those in power do not want independent journalists who can provide the necessary checks on the government but would rather have passive talk heads who simply act as their mediators.
Last but not least, Todorov’s and Simeonov’s statements come in the context of the attack which Nikolay Barekov, a Bulgarian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, launched against a number of journalists in the form of calls on the judicial authorities to check their accounts and payments.This shows the pressure on journalists is not an isolated phenomenon but an everyday practice on the part of the ruling elite who thus strive to silence all critical voices.
According to AEJ-Bulgaria’s 2017 survey on freedom of expression in Bulgaria, 59.1% of Bulgarian journalists consider external pressure to be one of the most serious threats to freedom of expression in the country, with 65% of the respondents claiming the same with respect to pressure coming from within the newsroom. The survey results are to be presented on October 17, 2017.