Inequalities in the access to media discredited the electoral campaign in Bulgaria

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The inequalities in the access to media experienced by different candidates and parties raise serious doubts on the fairness of the electoral campaign for the local and presidential elections in Bulgaria, which will take place on October 23rd. The Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria expresses its deep concern on the fact that the opportunities for free appearance in the media for the participants in the elections were quite limited.
We agree with the position of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, according to which “the paid media campaign threatens the principle of equality and creates property qualifications for participation in the vote”.
It is concerning that in a substantial part of the cases the readers, viewers and listeners of the different media could not get a proper orientation if the participation of a certain candidate has been paid to the media concerned or it was for free. We consider this an improper attitude towards the audience which is against the principle of ethics in journalism.
We think that paid publications can be allowed only in the private media with the condition that this fact has been strictly mentioned. Yet, the paid campaigns in the state-owned radio and TV stations are in an indisputable clash with the principles of the state media. These media are supported by the national budget and the reason for their existence is not the economic profit but the protection of the public interest. Therefore, we are wondering how is it possible that the legislative and the executive authorities are not stimulating the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio to organize free debates between the candidates for the local and the presidential elections. On the contrary, they are putting serious limits to this opportunity. Taking money from the candidates for their participation in public debates, when the voters themselves are the ones who pay for the existence of the TV station, is an insult not only on  the candidate and his electorate, but on the democracy as a whole.
The Association of European Journalists in Bulgaria (AEJ) is a member of the international Association of European Journalists (www.aej.org) – an independent international association which brings together journalists from all over Europe through their membership in the different national sections. The organization supports the critical journalism in the process of European integration and the freedom of information and media. AEJ offers the journalists the opportunity to become a part of a professional social network. The association is an independent observer in the Committee on the Media of the Council of Europe.