Archive for February 7, 2009

Organised crime, business and political pressure threaten journalism in Bulgaria – Reporters without Borders

Investigative journalism and media pluralism in Bulgaria are under serious threat from organised crime and from various forms of pressure from political and business quarters, watchdog Reporters Without Borders said in a report published on February 6 2009.

The report is based on a fact-finding visit two years after Bulgaria joined the European Union in January 2007, which led to the conclusion that the hopes of democratisation born at the start of the 1990s had not all evaporated but their fulfilment now depended on major reforms that were slow in coming.

“Press freedom is not progressing in Bulgaria,” Reporters Without Borders said. Bulgaria was ranked 59th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

“Organised crime groups that have understood the advantages that can be derived from controlling news and information have extended their ascendency over the media. The grey economy’s hold over the press is now threatening news diversity and the survival of investigative journalism. We are disturbed by the situation we found on our visit to Sofia.”

The Reporters Without Borders report said : “Some journalists are resigned to censoring themselves, while others continue to actively resist business and political pressure. But Georgy Stoev’s murder last April and a brutal attack on Ognyan Stefanov in September have served as reminders of the risks run by those who refuse to let the press be transformed into nothing more than a communication tool in the service of private interests.”

The Bulgarian press is not the only one in the EU to be subjected to violence and pressure from organised crime and paramilitary groups, the report said.

About 10 journalists are still under police protection in Italy. Others were being protected in Denmark and France while, in Spain, ETA was keeping up pressure on journalists who criticised its terrorism and insisted on the right to media diversity.

“The fight against these organised crime groups and their ability to undermine the press must, more than ever, be tackled at the European level and must be a priority commitment for the politicians participating in the European elections in June,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard said.

The report says that Bulgaria continues to be one of the priorities for Reporters Without Borders in the EU.

The organisation urges European institutions and news media to maintain an interest in Bulgaria and to extend their support for the country, as this would be of great help in reinforcing the effectiveness of its press freedom NGOs and its news media.

Sofia Echo – Clive leviev