Bulgaria: Independence of public service media BNR threatened

The International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) joined their affiliate, the Union of Bulgarian Journalists (UBJ), to express support to the journalists of the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) who are facing widespread pressure from their management.

A man hold up a radio, as he takes part in a human chain in defense of 'media freedom' around the Bulgarian National radio station in Sofia on September 26, 2019. CREDIT: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP

The crisis in the Bulgarian public service started with the dismissal of the longtime radio journalist and legal expert Sylvia Velikova and the five-hour broadcasting suspension of the BNR’s Horizont Channel on September 13. 

During a hearing in the Council of Electronic Media (CEM) on the following days, the editorial board of the radio channel exposed the pressure exerted by the BNR’s Director General through restrictions on journalists, imposition of censorship and interference on the editorial independence. In the same hearing, Ivaylo Savov - director of Horizont Channel - testified about the pressures he suffered by outside forces on the removal of Velikova.

The UBJ insists that the management contract of the Director General of the BNR Svetoslav Kostov “should be terminated in connection with the gross administrative offenses committed, impairing freedom of expression, national security and the implementation of the Horizont radio program license”.

The UBJ says: “This is an attack on free speech, media freedom and independence, and on the right for journalists to ask questions and to inform their audiences. This succession of attacks against media professionals at the BNR is a clear example of the deep crisis facing the media in Bulgaria, where different forces are trying to influence the work of journalists and are challenging journalists’ working conditions”.

On 26 September, the EFJ together with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), called on authorities to protect the independence of BNR and to come to a swift resolution of the current crisis.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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