Bulgarian New Chief Prosecutor to Query TV Offices Raid
Sotir Tsatsarov was sworn in office Thursday as Bulgaria's new Chief Prosecutor. Photo by BGNES
Bulgaria's brand new Chief Prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, has been quick to state that he would request ASAP information about the action of the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office against the TV channel TV+.
On Wednesday, economic police stormed the office of private TV channel TV+. According to reports of the Interior Ministry and the prosecution, the police were searching the premises and conducting an investigation related to tax evasion.
One of the prosecutors in the case explained for the State-owned Bulgarian National Television Wednesday evening the probe has been launched on the tipoff sent by a TV+ journalist, informing employees were made to sign contracts for the minimum monthly wage, paid as direct deposit, while the rest of the salary was given to them in cash.
This is a wide-spread practice in Bulgaria, leading to losses in taxes and insurance for the State coffers.
Tsatsarov, who was just sworn in office Thursday, stressed such raids were alarming, but added the title "media" does not automatically mean immunity. He noted freedom of media is a rule for any democracy, and it would be crucial to not allow criminal probes to turn into pressure for one or another media outlet.
"You know as much as I know about the case with TV+," the Chief Prosecutor commented.
TV+ is owned by satellite operator Bulsatcom which is involved in a financial dispute with private TV channels bTV and TV7.
The two parties are failing to reach agreement on a new contract.
On Tuesday, private TV channel TV7 threatened to withdraw its program from the Bulsatcom network if the operator failed to submit an unambiguous response on TV7's offer for a new contract by Friday.
Even though it is common knowledge, Bulsatcom deny ownership on TV+ because it is actually illegal in Bulgaria to be both a cable operator and media owner. TV+ have declined any comments in the case.
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