The cancellation of a TV show due to the pressure of a private bank is the most significant violation of the freedom of speech for 2011, shows an AEJ-Bulgaria poll


Cutting a TV show from broadcast by the national private TV channel Nova TV is the most serious violation concerning freedom of speech inBulgariafor 2011. This is the conclusion from the preliminary results of the survey on media freedom conducted by the Association of European Journalists –Bulgaria.
A significant number of journalists and media experts who filled in the survey believe that cutting off the satirical TV show “Marc O’Selski” is an important example of the economic pressure to which the Bulgarian media is exposed. According to publications in several media from July 2011, the show was cancelled due to the pressure which the co-owner of First Investment Bank (FIV) and a key investor in the ski resorts Bansko and Vitosha, Ceko Minev, applied against the management of the TV channel. What provoked the cancellation of the show was a comical sketch about the infringement of the concessionary contract, determining the size of the Bansko ski-zone in thePirinNational Park.
This information was publicly denied by Nova TV’s senior management, the editorial team of the show and FIV. The official version was that the show was cut short because of the summer holidays and will be back in September. However, this did not happen and the show has been out of broadcast for more than 2 months now. Journalists, familiar with the case told AEJ-Bulgaria that the editorial team of the show was punished with being removed from broadcast, but it was also forced to deny this in public. In the comments section, included in the survey, they state that the pressure was applied by the means of a new contract, signed between the TV channel and the producers „Hidalgo Productions”, for another TV project which is considered “safe” from the investor’s perspective. According to participants in the poll, there is still an option for the show to start again in order for the accusations for a violation of media freedom to be disproved. In such a case, though, the content of the videos will be put under strict supervision, whereas the addressees of the criticisms will be cautiosly selected, they say.
In July, the Association of free speech “Anna Politkovskaya” issued a statement, in which it qualified the cancellation of the show “Marc O’Selski” as “unprecedented and cynical economic pressure aimed at putting limits on the editorial and creative freedom in a national electronic media. With the help of direct economic manipulation, the owners of FIV and Iulen (a company, related to them), are seeking to stifle the free journalistic coverage and to limit the public reaction regarding significantly important problems for the society due to their economic interests”.
The AEJ-Bulgaria survey on media freedom will continue till the end of September. It has two versions – one for journalists and another for media and legal experts. We are inviting all our colleagues and observers of the Bulgarian media sector to participate in the poll and to share their vision on the situation regarding freedom of speech inBulgaria, alerting for cases of violation of this fundamental human right. The results of the survey will be announced in the beginning of October, as they will be included in the annual report which the International Association of European Journalists sends to the Council of Europe.