The UBJ expressed serious concerns about the adoption of The Amendments to the Law on Protection of Personal Data, by the country’s parliament.
In a strongly worded statement, the UBJ Board condemned the amendments, which it claimed would “in practice deprive the journalists of the possibility to exercise their profession freely”.
The new law opens up the possibility for the State Commission for Personal Data Protection (CDPR) to control the work of the journalists and the media, and judge case by case if the journalists have used legitimate personal data.
In addition, public authorities will have the right to refuse access to information creating “a regime of media censorship” in a bid to avoid criticism of state power and its representatives or corrupt practices.
Journalists, their archives and documents could be screened, making it impossible to protect the confidentiality of sources.
At the discretion of the CDPR, journalists and the media face huge fines, which it would be impossible for them to pay.
“The new texts in the law actually create conditions for the liquidation of investigative journalism”, UBJ leaders said.
The new Amendments the government claim are necessary to bring legislation in line with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but in practice, they have nothing to do with the objectives of this measure and provide no exclusions for journalists and journalistic work - as occurs in Germany.
The union has been seeking talks with the government for over 7 months but claims they have been ignored.
The UBJ said: “We call on the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rumen Radev to veto the adoption of this law and - if it will be passed again in the same way - for it to be referred to the Constitutional Court, because the new texts undermine freedom of speech, the constitutional right to freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the right of the public to be informed.”
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “There is no place in democratic societies for such laws which fundamentally undermine the ability of journalists to do their work and which seek to obstruct the freedom of the media and free expression. The Bulgarian authorities should rescind this draconian law”.