Neelie Kroes Stands Up for Media Freedom in Bulgaria
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes has vowed to help put Bulgaria's media market in order, calling the task "a personal priority".
She spoke on Wednesday at the open hearing in the European Parliament, organized by the Alliance for Liberal Democrats in Europe (ALDE) in a sign that European Commission and journalists would not give up on media freedom in Bulgaria.
"When we talk about media freedom, it is about protecting key values. Not all EU countries enjoy such freedom and we should fight for it," Commissioner Kroes said, adding she would not hesitate to react if EU values are put at risk.
She cited Reporters without Borders ranking, which placed media freedom in Bulgaria on the abominably low 80th place, saying this is a cause for concern.
Commissioner Kroes recommended that a detailed analysis of the media market in Bulgaria is conducted.
A group of high-ranking officials, headed by former president of Latvia - Vaira Vike-Freiberga, is preparing a report on pluralism and media freedom in the EU and is expected to make recommendations for their protection, the commissioner said.
At the beginning of the year, Reporters without Borders placed media freedom in Bulgaria on the abominably low 80th place.
The ranking showed that the Balkan country lags behind all other EU member states in terms of press freedom.
Together with Greece (70th) and Italy (61), Bulgaria has failed to address the issue of its media freedom violations, above all because of a lack of political will, Reporters without Borders said.
Experts in political science and mass communications have been warning that Bulgarian media trends are extremely alarming as the lack of clarity in the ownership and financing of part of the media in the country undermine the market.
The pressure on Bulgarian media continues, both political and economic, leading to journalism's self-censorship, experts say.
The latest developments on the media market have led to a near monopoly by a new media group spearheaded by Irena Krasteva, former head of the Bulgarian State Lottary.
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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