Democracy, Media Freedom in Bulgaria Flourishing - PM
Bulgaria's prime minister has vehemently denied allegations that his ruling stifles media and human rights freedoms.
"Democracy, freedom of speech and human rights protection have been in full bloom since the current government came into power three years ago," Boyko Borisov boasted, taking up a reporter's questions after his meeting with United States homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano.
"The very fact that anyone can come here and pose whatever questions they want to Janet Napolitano proves that democracy in this country is in full bloom and human rights are respected in every way," he added.
"There are countries, including countries in the European Union, where journalists are forced to send their questions in advance. In Bulgaria you can talk, write, ask whatever you want! This is the best manifestation of democracy, media freedom and human rights."
Recent rankings have shown that the Balkan country lags behind almost all other EU member states in terms of press freedom and human rights protection.
The British daily The Guardian reported earlier this week that countries on the eastern fringes of the EU, including Bulgaria, appear to be serial offenders in a comparative study of breaches of individuals' right to liberty and a fair trial recorded by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Meanwhile Bulgaria ranked 78th among 196 countries in Freedom House's 2011 global press freedom ranking, issued in May.
At the beginning of the year, Reporters without Borders placed media freedom in Bulgaria on the abominably low 80th place.
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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