Amnesty International: The Situation with Media Freedom in Bulgaria is getting Worse
The situation with the freedom of the media in Bulgaria is getting worse because of lawsuits against media and journalists and because of intimidation of reporters. This is one of the conclusions in the annual report of the international human rights organization "Amnesty International" for 2022 in the section on Bulgaria. The report was released on March 28.
The organization notes that in the past year there have been cases of rejection of migrants seeking international protection in Bulgaria, and the increase in cases of domestic violence and the lack of adequate reaction and action on the part of the authorities are noted with concern.
According to the organization, there is persistent discrimination against people with disabilities and the Roma community in Bulgaria, and hate and homophobic crimes are not actively and effectively investigated.
The organization notes that the inability to form a cabinet after the last elections in October 2022 has left the country in a state of prolonged political crisis.
The media - in the same trap: between self-censorship and threats
The organization emphasizes in its report the situation with journalists and the media in Bulgaria and refers to the study of the Association of European Journalists for last year, according to which every second journalist was subjected to illegal pressure, and every tenth was threatened with court.
"Journalists and independent media covering topics related to organized crime, corruption or minority rights were subjected to constant threats and harassment and were often the victims of illegal lawsuits by government officials and businessmen," Amnesty's report said.
It recently became known that the insurance company "Lev Ins" is suing the online publication Mediapool.bg with a lawsuit in the Sofia City Court for one million leva because of an article from September 27, 2022, which quotes and retells a transcript of a meeting of the Council of Ministers. The owner of the insurance company "Euroins" - "Eurohold" - is also suing for one million leva against the site "Bivol". There is also a case against Mediapool.bg, filed by judge Svetlin Mihailov, which is also about an article that recalls facts.
"Major media remained under the control of politicians and oligarchs, which further undermined editorial independence and limited access to information," the international organization also notes.
Amnesty notes and omits previous rulers and the last parliament's failed attempt to pass key changes to the Penal Code in line with a series of damning rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on freedom of expression.
"The amendments will remove the existing provision that treats defamation of a public official as an aggravating circumstance and reduce excessive and disproportionate fines for defamation," the report said.
Pushing away migrants - a widespread practice
"Amnesty", which noted some time ago that Bulgaria forcibly repels migrants at the border, once again emphasizes the fact that "the return of people without individual examination of individual cases, sometimes through the use of violence, remains a widespread practice".
In 2022, according to the organization's data, which refers to official data from the Bulgarian authorities, 85 thousand people entered the country, which is more than twice as many as compared to the previous year.
"Human rights organizations have reported continued discriminatory practices in the international protection system, with applications from citizens of some countries, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Morocco and Tunisia, being automatically rejected," wrote Amnesty.
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