Ethnic Turks Leader Spearheads Bulgaria Media Monopoly - Journalists

Business | August 12, 2011, Friday // 16:47
Bulgaria: Ethnic Turks Leader Spearheads Bulgaria Media Monopoly - Journalists Now, even though not in power, Ahmed Dogan is still fit to play the role of a parallel authority, the journalists from an anti-government newspaper claim. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Ahmed Dogan, leader of the Bulgarian ethnic Turks, largely known over the last decade as the country's back seat ruler, stands behind the monopoly on the local media market, an anti-government newspaper has alarmed.

"Ahmed Dogan is the man behind the media monopolist, while Delyan Peevski [member of parliament on the ticket of the ethnic Turkish party] is just a man, carrying around suitcases full of cash," Yavor Dachkov, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Galeria weekly, said at a press conference on Thursday.

The journalist referred to the purchase of a large number of titles by media mogul Irena Krasteva and her son Delyan Peevski, who have been criticized not only for concentrating the media market in their hands, but also for fawning to those in power and providing no information about the origin of their assets.

The monopoly on the media market has emerged as the biggest threat for free speech in Bulgaria, according to the journalists from Galeria weekly, whose office was blasted earlier this year in what they claim is an attempt to intimidate them and their informants.

"Peevski's empire is one of the greatest players in the sharing out of multiplexes in the digitization of the television market. Today he decides what newspapers Bulgarians should read, but tomorrow he will also decide which TV channels they should watch," said Dachkov.

"Not a single minister dares to oppose this man. It is even believed that the fate of the anti-trust commission members is in his hands too. The commission is reacting quickly now because it has come under pressure," Kristina Patrashkova, editor-in-chief of the weekly, said.

Asked about their meeting with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who has long been the darling of the newspapers from the monopoly group, she said:

"He was surprised to hear of the problem and vowed to deal with it "just as he did with Lukoil monopoly".

"We told Borisov that all the media have been purchased with state money received as loans granted to Peevski by Corporate Commercial Bank, which holds 70% of the money of strategic state-owned companies in the country. We expect him not to brush the problem under the carpet."

Earlier in the day Bulgaria's anti-trust commission announced it will launch a probe into a possible newspaper monopoly, the first of its kind in the country.

The news came after the purchase of a large number of titles by media mogul Irena Krasteva and the recent squabbles over ownership of the WAZ assets in Bulgaria – the first ever monopolist on the local media market, dating back to the 90s - left a bitter taste in the mouth of the audience.

The beginning of August saw the latest development on the market and the expansion of the monopoly after one third of the shares of top Bulgarian daily Standart were, allegedly, bought by New Bulgarian Media Group, something the management of the daily firmly denies.

New Bulgarian Media Group owns the national BBT TV channel, the Telegraf daily, Weekend weekly, Monitor daily, Politika weekly, the newly-created Vseki Den daily, as well as the local Veliko Tarnovo daily Borba and the Plovdiv daily Maritsa. (Telegraf and Weekend are the highest-circulation daily and weekly in Bulgaria.)

The monopoly is also said to hold 80% of the newspapers distribution network

The deals are said to show that shady figures can afford to buy back shares in large numbers or artificially prop up loss-making titles not because this is economically profitable.

They are tempted by the prospect of using the media for money laundering or for promoting other economic activities from public tenders, public works, mobile telephony, energy, tourism, etc.

The investments are made with the sole goal of turning the media into a tool for communication or pressure, opponents say.

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