Reporters Without Borders Slam Amendments to BG Penal Code on Banks
The Reporters Without Borders organisation harshly criticised the amendments to Bulgaria's Penal Code criminalising the spreading of false information on banks.
In an open letter of Christophe Deloire Reporters Without Borders secretary-general, published on its website, the organisation notes that in spite the best intentions to protect the country's banking sector, those amendments would practically turn it “into a walled-off fortress that would have to render accounts to no one.”
“Banks and financial institutions are no more immune to abuses and excesses than any other sector of Bulgarian society, and it is the media’s job to make the public aware of these problems,” reads the letter. “It is also the media’s job to explain how this complex sector operates, because the public’s understanding is essential to the country’s prosperity.
What journalists would dare to fulfil this role, even when sure of their facts, if the threat of a jail sentence were hanging over them? How could they prove to a judge that their stories were not “false or misleading” especially as, in the overwhelming majority of defamation cases, it is the journalist’s good faith that is demonstrated, not the story’s accuracy? And finally, how could journalists be sure that judges, at their discretion, would not decide that the public’s reaction constituted a “panic”?”
“The balance of power between the banking sector and journalism was already skewed, inasmuch as the banks can afford much better legal advice. If you adopt this amendment, this imbalance will be enshrined in the law.Many civil society representatives have come out against this amendment. Some say the very vague reference to “other information” should be made more precise. Some want “false or misleading information” changed to “deliberately false or misleading information.” Others point to the fact that “causing a panic” is not defined. Reporters Without Borders shares these criticisms.”
“But Reporters Without Borders asks you to go further. This amendment should be abandoned altogether. It has no place in the penal code because it is draconian, it contradicts all of the international accords that protect fundamental rights, and it contradicts the Bulgarian constitution, which enshrines the right to receive and disseminate information freely.”
In conclusion Christophe Deloire points out that the situation with media freedom in Bulgaria is serious enough. “Freedom of information is in poor shape in Bulgaria, which is ranked 100th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, the lowest position of any European Union member,” he said. “You have a duty to improve your ranking, not make it worse. ”
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