Freedom of Speech in Bulgaria is Declining, Says a New Media Report
Freedom of speech in Bulgaria in 2018 has diminished, and this reflects the overall weakness of the rule of law and, among a number of other factors, the fact that laws are applied selectively and there are people with political protection against persecution.
In addition, professional standards weaken on a media scene from fragmented editions used to promote the interests of their owners and weaken the positions of their rivals. Journalists are increasingly imposing self-censorship to protect themselves from political, corporate, and criminal pressure.
This is the assessment in the annual report on the The Media Sustainability Index (MSI) of the Washington-based IREX-based NGO. The analysis is considered to be one of the most profound in the world because it assesses not only the media freedom, but also the legal, professional and technical environment in which journalists work and how far they protect the state and their employers. MSI for Europe has been working since 2000 in cooperation with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), writes Dnevnik.
The indicator for Bulgaria has slightly improved this time - from 1.81 to 1.89 points. But this is far from the best result in 2007 and puts the country in the "unsustainable mixed media" category for media and journalists. This is the penultimate, best-in-class category of "countries covering minimum requirements in which there are separate segments in the legal system, as well as in the government that oppose a free media system, if there is visible progress in defending the freedom of the press, the improvement of professionalism and the emergence of new media companies, such phenomena are too new to judge how sustainable they are. "
Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are the only EU countries included in an area that still covers the Western Balkans and the former USSR, including the Central Asian republics. In this company from 21 countries by index index Bulgaria ranks 12th - after Kyrgyzstan and before Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On freedom of speech, the situation in Bulgaria is rated 13th - between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Tajikistan. Business management of the media is at a much higher level - 9th place, ie. between Macedonia and Kyrgyzstan, but this is also the category with the best indicator for Bulgaria. In media-supporting and journalistic institutions, it is assigned the 14th place, the diversity of the news sources is 11th, and the journalists' professionalism is 13th.
Bulgarian journalists are working in a country that has made sporadic progress and has been hindered by decades of corruption, says the national report. Moreover, Bulgaria has reported a sharp deterioration in media freedom since it entered the European Union in 2007 and has fallen for only a decade from 36th to 111th in Reporters Without Borders, the authors said.
They also pay attention to the European Commission's latest monitoring report, which states that the deterioration of the media environment in Bulgaria is also due to insufficient transparency, accountability to the public and public access to reliable information.
The third report, quoted by IREX, is the Monitor for the pluralism of the European media, which states that in Bulgaria the diversity is reduced due to the strong concentration of media ownership, the harmful influence of the owners and the unregulated system of advertising by state institutions in order to buying the loyalty of the media to the government.
In the part devoted to professionalism, as well as assessments made by a dozen Bulgarian journalists and media experts such as Prof. Neli Ognianova of Sofia University and Georgi Lozanov from BTA, were used as arguments. "An aggravating circumstance in the country is the living public memory of Communism when journalism was officially replaced by propaganda," Lozanov says.
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