Journalism without masks: Political Pressure on Media on the Rise

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Журналистика без маски
Photo credit: Zdravko Yonchev

The Association of European Journalists in Bulgaria (AEJ-Bulgaria) presented on Friday the fifth consecutive study on media freedom in Bulgaria.

Stagnation is a fitting description of the current state of play of the media environment in Bulgaria in 2020. The snapshot which has emerged from the replies of the respondents in the fifth freedom of speech perception survey conducted by AEJ Bulgaria is almost identical to that in 2015. Nearly one out of two Bulgarian journalists described the situation in the media industry as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, with a mere 3 % of respondents describing it as ‘excellent’. 

In 2020, the culture of pressure appears to have grown perceptibly stronger. Against the backdrop of a slight improvement in 2017 following the strongly negative trends outlined by the survey conducted two years earlier, a dangerous trend of further deterioration is gaining momentum. 

Outside pressure on the media from political actors has not only failed to subside but has in fact doubled compared to other centers of influence on editorial content, such as economic players, advertisers and central and local government bodies. 

The self-censorship and self-limitations journalists impose on themselves in their work have evolved into a disquieting unwritten rule. In extraordinary situations and periods of unrest, both have become more visible. 

The measures against the concentration of printed media ownership and distribution continue to be regarded as an instrument for improvement of the media environment in Bulgaria. Hope is bestowed on alternative forms of journalism (media that offer a different angle and a more in-depth analysis of events, seek independent financing through donations, monthly subscription plans, etc.). Regional media are now a truly ‘endangered species’.

The survey has been conducted with financial assistance from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bulgaria. AEJ Bulgaria bears full responsibility for the content of the survey and for the processing and presentation of its results and no responsibility for the latter may under any circumstances be attributed to or interpreted as reflecting the views of the financing organization.

Read the full report in English: Journalism Without Masks, 2020 Annual Survey Of Media in Bulgaria

Photo: Form left to right: Irina Nedeva (President of AEJ-Bulgaria), Maria Cheresheva (Vice President of AEJ-Bulgaria), Bea ten Tusscher (Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sofia)