The new code of ethics is an attempt to privatize media self-regulation


The Code of Professional Ethics of the Bulgarian Media, drafted by the Bulgarian Media Union is an attempt at privatizing media self-regulation in Bulgaria. After a prolonged period of refusing to sign and abide by the Ethical Code of Bulgarian Media, representatives of the media outlets in the orbit of New Media Group (owned by Irena Krasteva, mother of the Member of Parilement of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms Delian Peevski) issued their own document. It appears that behind this seemingly commendable initiative lies an attempt to impose a monopoly on yet another area of the media environment.
The new Code is essentially not much different from the current document, but the actual problem with it is not what it says but who ordered its drafting and who will monitor compliance with it.
It is significant that on the exact day of the publication of the Code, Monitor, the flagship newspaper of the media empire of New Bulgarian Media Group, has already violated its provisions. The unbiased observer will notice that the material “Plevneliev with commissions from KRIB” violates Art. 1.1 and Art. 1.6 of the Code. It does not become apparent in the cited article that the media has made efforts to verify the accuracy of the information, whose source is the leader of a newly established party. There is also no attempt to present the position of the other party concerned.
Art. 1.1. The media should provide the public with reliable and verified information without distortion or obscuring of the facts and circumstances, and without manipulation of public opinion using deceptive or misleading information, by requiring journalists’ and editors’ compliance with these rules.
Art. 1.6. In their work the media should distinguish facts from assessments, comments and / or suggestions, should strive to provide different views and positions in seeking the truth and should communicate and / or accurately and professionally reflect events in order to create an objective public opinion.
These two articles could be related to the materials “Borisov colluding with Goce since 2006 “, whose source is again the same politician as mentioned above. Moreover, this article does not show even the slightest desire to search for an alternative position to cover the minimum standards of objectivity.
The article “Killer of taxi driver stands in front of Themis” blatantly violates Art. 1.14. of the Code, which reads: Media outlets are required to respect the constitutional presumption of innocence by refraining from the use of qualifiers against individuals accused and / or individuals on trial before a judgment of the court has been made with an effective legal act.
It would be naive, however, to expect that the committee that will be formed within the Bulgarian Media Union would reach the same conclusion.
Curiously, one of the articles of the new Code relates to cases for which Monitor has gained international notoriety – namely censoring an interview with the German ambassador:
3.2. Abbreviated or amended texts that change the basic meaning of the original text may be published only with the approval of their author.
Whoever enters the committee that will monitor compliance with the Code, it cannot be expected that these people will be beyond the control of Peevski-Krasteva. Due to the inherent conflict of interest, the new Code could be available for internal use in their media, but cannot be imposed as a national model of self-regulation.
The Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria has repeatedly criticized the shortcomings of the existing system of self-regulation. Unfortunately, instead of this model being reformed and expanded, an attempt is made for it to be destroyed and replaced by self-regulation for private benefit. Since the new Code refers to the public interest, we would like to recall that last year the Bulgarian citizens have clearly shown that putting more and more spheres of public life under the control of the circle behind New Bulgarian Media Group does not sit well with their perceptions of public interest.
AEJ-Bulgaria will continue to carry out independent monitoring of the content of all media, regardless of which media union its owners belong to and which Code they have signed.