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The Independence of the Bulgarian Public Media Seriously Threatened: RSF

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced the serious political pressure that led to the suspension of a Bulgarian radio journalist and the unprecedented interruption of the broadcaster’s signal for several hours on 13 September.

Silvia Velikova 

Known for her uncompromising interviews and pressing questions at the microphone of the Bulgarian national radio BNR where she has been employed for 26 years, the journalist Silvia Velikova was withdrawn the presentation of her show the next morning and without notice on 12 September latest. According to her, the link between her sanction and the controversial appointment, without public selection procedure of the future Prosecutor General of Bulgaria next month, is clear. 

But it was without counting on the support of the journalist’s colleagues who, the very next morning, were behind her, forcing the radio’s management to cancel all its programs for more than five hours. In the wake of this unprecedented protest movement, the journalist was informed that she would be able to return to the airing and its legal broadcast but “in pairs” in order to respect “pluralism of opinions”.

“This attempt to” gag “a journalist to protect the only candidate of the ruling party for the post of prosecutor, illustrates the lack of independence of the Bulgarian public broadcasting and the stranglehold of some political leaders on their editorial line , says Pauline Adès-Mével, Head of the European Union-Balkans area. As pressure on the country’s independent press grows, Ivan Geshev’s possible appointment as Bulgarian Attorney General on 24 October threatens the Bulgarian public prosecutor’s case against journalists . ” 

Although the management of the radio continued to mention “a technical incident” to justify the cut, Prime Minister Boyko Borrisov had to intervene publicly and demand that the journalist be reinstated. 

For its part, the director of the program at the origin of the sanction, was forced to resign. After investigation, the prosecutor’s office stated that “no link could be established” between the suspension of the BNR signal and the journalist’s deprivation of antenna. However, the editor-in-chief of radio Daniela Kusovska publicly testified to “very loud” pressure on radio director Svetoslav Kostov to remove the journalist and deprive her of the radio. 

The situation is so serious that the President of the Republic himself spoke this week about the crisis: “The suspension of national radio shows again the need to identify who governs the public media, and how. .. It is obvious that the state (Bulgarian ed) is governed from the phone of someone, not from the institutions, as is the normal European practice “commented the President of the Republic. 

Bulgaria, where judicial harassment of independent media has intensified in recent months, ranks 111th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index in 2019. 

Copyright ©2016, Reporters Without Borders. Used with the permission of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), CS 90247 75083 Paris Cedex 02 https://rsf.org

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