Restricting the Freedom of Speech

“There is a climate of media civil war in the country … The situation is very concerning keeping under account the great pressure exuded on journalists,” the Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders says.

Silencing the freedom of speech is one of the most symptomatic and oxygen-consuming practices of repressive regimes in modern history. In this sense, the function of the state, by virtue of the social contract that we all conclude, should ensure that freedom of the press and its objectivity are not prejudiced. In Bulgaria, the opposite is true: the state and its various bodies are applying repressive and biased measures against the media and journalists who criticize power, corruption, and lawlessness.

Monopolizing the media channels

With the boom of internet communication, broadcast and print media inevitably lose their profitability. Their excess concentration in sole proprietors – politically bound economic groups – makes them a subsidized political instrument for manipulating the public opinion. And by extend, one of the main methods for state capture and, ultimately, modern-day slavery through information deprivation.

A good example of this process is the purchase of Nova Television in 2019 and the consequent leave of investigative journalists for contract sanctions if they refuse to make a “media-commissioned topic”. At the same time, the television retains the right of not broadcasting reports offered by journalists if they do not suit the channel’s agenda.

The silencing of investigative materials

The intriguing case of the silent national radio (for the first time in 50 years) after the removal of the radio host Sylvia Velikova, which investigated the judicial area in some very turbulent times, and in particular during the protests against the only candidate for Attorney General- Ivan Geshev is a good example of that trend.

There was a strong public reaction. Even the Union of Judges appealed to the European institutions for the unprecedented pressure exerted on the national media.

The state as a repressive power tool against free speech

“In recent months, one of Bulgaria’s leading investigative journalism sites, Bivol.bg, has been caught up in an avalanche of repressive state investigations and audits. According to its owner, this is a targeted campaign aimed at retaliation for exposing corruption in the ruling party in the country.

The full list of threats, attempted murder, surveillance, wiretapping, tax audits, prosecutions, property checks … you can see in the grim chronicle of events on their site https://bivol.bg/about.html. The peak of the state’s prosecutions was reached when the prosecutor’s office started to terrorize the Bivol’s owner’s father, the poet Nedyalko Yordanov.

Other media outlets are also under investigation and pressure.

In recent years, some of the most active investigative journalists suffered repression and silencing attempts or were faced with impossible choices.

What to do

To reverse the sad statistics that we are on 111th place in the World by freedom of speech (out of 180, including countries with paramilitary regimes), it is necessary for citizens to initiate this proses and start creating and seeking independent channels of information and media. This culture is a learning process and includes identifying and supporting trusted sources, forming objective opinions, and constant search for different perspectives.

Some critical media:

News:

Civic Action Network – Bluelink;

Press that publishes material from objective journalists (but not always ;-)):

http://bnr.bg

www.dnevnik.bg

https://www.dw.com/bg

https://www.svobodnaevropa.bg

www.offnews.bg

http://bnr.bg/HristoBotev

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