TV7 Scandal: Bulgaria Experts Voice Diverging Opinions
Developments at TV7, where a bailiff accompanied by dozens of police officers tried to switch the station off air, are dominating other Bulgarian media outlets on Thursday.
While some guests of breakfast show have condemned police action and the bailiff's ruthless attempts to take away the TV7 and News7's server to stop their broadcasts, others have defended the lender's right to collect receivables and have cast doubt on the grounds for public indignation that followed.
Konstantin Penchev, Bulgaria's National Ombudsman, called the events "behind-the scenes picking of bones" and "muscle-flexing" on behalf of authorities.
Penchev told public broadcaster BNT's breakfast program that assignees at collapsed Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank or KTB), to which TV7 owеs a loan estimated at roughly BGN 4 M, should give an account on their actions since the value of the station's properties cannot match its debt. Having been an assignee at other institutions, he said if he took that position at KTB he would have requested that TV7 be declared insolvent and would have sought to sell it, instead of pursuing liquidation. He made clear that under the law, the bailiff could have only acted upon the assignee's orders.
Despite stressing national TV stations' role as something going beyond their status as commercial entities, Council for Electrionic Media (CEM) Chair Georgi Lozanov, also said the station's one-time "dubious" record cannot be easily ignored. Furthermore, Bulgaria's society is not able to pack, Lozanov opined in an interview with private national bTV station.
Ivan Garelov, a journalist whose career spans decades, for his part pointed to the bailiff's intention to stop the broadcast. "The aim was very likely to devalue the TV station, to make it disappear, [to leave it] without staff and a platform and to buy it on the cheap," he said. Garelov also praised the action of PM Boyko Borisov and Interior Minister Rumyana Bachvarova for what he called their "timely" move to end the disturbing police presence in and around TV7's headquarters.
Another journalist, Ivan Bedrov, told NOVA TV he was appalled by his colleagues at TV7 who in his words used "microphones as clubs" while the developments were taking place on Wednesday. All actions by bailiffs and police were aired live by TV7, with anchors and reporters commenting and voicing their indignation.
Lyuba Kulezich, who works for NOVA TV's Saturday and Sunday morning broadcast, described police action as "fascism" and the government's "tacit support" (at which she hinted) as "vendetta". PM Borisov has often slammed at TV7 over its actions with regard to the "Kostinbrod affair", when it sided with the prosecution throwing vote-rigging accusations at his party and exposing the entire "scandal", just a day before early elections.
In TV7's own morning broadcast, Gen Atanas Atanasov, an MP from the Reformist Bloc heading the security committee in Parliament, said debts had to be "serviced" after all, but added it was interesting to know who assignees are working for, given that "a debt payment scheme has already been offered [by TV7's management]." The channel's executives maintain they had earlier offered to repay their loan, but hadn't been allowed to do so.
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