The International Federation of Journalists today wrote to the Bulgarian authorities condemning the decision of the Bulgarian Sofia City Court of Appeal to convict two journalists for their refusal to reveal the source of a story on corruption in the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior published in the daily Trud in 1996.
H.E. Georgi Parvanov
Fax: +359 2 981 67 66
H.E. Simeon Saxe-Coburg
Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria
Fax: +359 2 980 20 56 / 987 07 74
H.E. Anton Stankov
Minister of Justice
Fax: +359 2 982 9157
H.E. Ognian Gerdjikov
Chairman of Parliament
Fax: +359 2 939 23 34/ 987 99 66
Brussels, 29 September 2004
The International Federation of Journalists, the worlds largest journalists’ organisation, representing over 500,000 journalists, is very concerned by the decision of the Sofia City Court of Appeal to convict two journalists for their refusal to reveal the source of a story on corruption in the Bulgarian Ministry of Interior published in the daily Trud in 1996.
According to our information, journalists Svetlana Yordanova and Tosho Toshev (editor-in-chief) and ‘Media Holding’, owners of Trud, were fined 5,000 Bulgarian Lev (2,500 euro) by the Sofia Court of Appeal on 7th September.
In 1996, several media ran a story about an employee of the Ministry of Interior, Nikolai Todorov, being investigated for corruption. The media claimed that the source of the story was a high ranking official in the prosecutor’s office. After seven years the case against Todorov was halted due to the failure of the prosecution to report in due time.
In 1999 Todorov launched proceedings against the Trud and the two journalists for damages. However, in 2001 the Sofia City Court of Appeal rejected this appeal and found in favour of the journalists claiming that the reports were the result of ‘meticulous investigative journalism’. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court of Cassation returned the case to the Sofia City Court of Appeal which has now changed its verdict and convicted the journalists of publishing ‘non-confirmed information received by a prosecutor whose identity has proven impossible to find out’.
The IFJ believes that the protection of a source’s identity is a professional duty for any journalist. This duty must be protected and respected by institutions of government and the judiciary. If journalists can no longer guarantee anonymity, then whistleblowers will stop speaking to the journalists and the media’s capacity to investigate corruption and abuse of power will be curtailed. A journalists’ right to protection of their sources is essential to press freedom.
This argument is supported by the European Court of Human Rights which has consistently ruled against attempts to force journalist to reveal their sources as a breach of Article 10 on Freedom of Expression.
The IFJ asks the Bulgarian authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that the duty of journalists to protect the identity of their sources is recognized and protected by Bulgarian law.
General Secretary, IFJ