Unprecedented bureaucratic censorship applied on Bulgarian media

FreedomThe Bulgarian financial supervision commission is turning into a harsh regulator of the freedom of journalistic expression. A record high fine of 160 000 leva was imposed on the “Economedia” group for publications, labelled as market manipulations. The group was also penalized for its refusal to disclose informers. Such an attack on the informers of the group is threatening to destroy the very last instruments for investigation into corruption practices and abuses by journalists. Combined those two things reach the level of unprecedented bureaucratic censorship.
The maximum sanction of 100 000 leva was imposed on “Alpico publishing” LLC, publisher of Zov News – Vratsa newspaper for its article “FIV is going to bankruptcy as well?”, exploring the visible pressure in the society in Vratsa city built around the speculations for an eventual crash of First Investment Bank. The amount of the fine was puzzling to the publishers of the newspaper bearing in mind that this media was never audited or sanctioned by the Financial Supervision Commission (FSC) before. The imposed maximum fine suggests systematic violations, high degree of public danger or severe violation of the law. The aftereffect can easily be devastating for the survival of a small regional media.
In the end of 2014 the CFS requested two other media to disclose their sources of information concerning publications reporting on the problems of the Bulgarian financial system – “Mediapool” and “Bivol”. An act that is truly violating the media freedom.
AEJ – Bulgaria is deeply disturbed by the tendency for state financial regulators to set up barriers for reporting on the Bulgarian bank system. Repressive measures, used by the state, are in a violation of articles 39, 40, 41 of the Constitution of Bulgaria as well as art. 10, para 1 of the European Convention for Human Rights and art. 11, para 1 of the Charter for Fundamental Rights in the European Union, that establish the freedom of expression principle. Furthermore – in its vast case-law the European Court for Human Rights reiterates that “[…] the role of investigative journalists is precisely to inform and alert the public, particularly of bad news, as soon as the information came into their possession […]”(Martin and Others v. France ).
The FSC cannot and should not neither interpret or enforce the Ethical Code of the Bulgarian Media, nor force unanimously media to disclose their informers and thus make them publish only officially sanctioned information. The latter would mean the end of investigative journalistic work and would inevitably deprive citizens from their right to receive information.
AEJ – Bulgaria stands firmly for the right of journalists to inform the society and their decision not to disclose their informers who can easily be placed in a position where there is a serious threat for their bodily integrity. We would duly inform our international partners with the latest violations of the freedom of speech by representatives of state authorities.

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