Camelia Ivanova - Censorship, regulations and other stories


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Presentation at the conference Freedom and privacy on the Internet (FPI), 2012, Skopje, Macedonia

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Camelia Ivanova - Censorship, regulations and other stories

  1. 1. Media Reality in Bulgaria Censorship, regulations and other stories #fpi12
  2. 2. Media sector Bulgaria has been persistent in taking the last positions in nearly all international rankings for freedom of speech – Reporters Without Boarders, Freedom House, SEEMO. Widespread auto censorship, “corporative journalism”, the publishers’ business model affects the quality of journalism. The public cannot rely on a single media source to be well #fpi12
  3. 3. Who are we?• AEJ-Bulgaria has been a member of the international Association of European Journalists since 2010. It gathers journalists from 30 countries. We believe that the journalism is a profession of high value and we strive for Bulgarian journalists to be satisfied and proud of their work. We believe that the media should be a power for positive change, and that the new technologies should make us not only active commentators, but moreover – active citizens!What we do?••Monthly ranking of the best and the worst examples of theBulgarian media•Great ideas for useful #fpi12
  4. 4. How bad the media reality really is? AEJ-Bulgaria carried out an online survey in the period August-September 2011 among Bulgarian journalists working in print media, radio, TV stations, online media as well as bloggers. They were asked to use a five scale method (5-excellent; 4-good; 3-satisfying; 2-bad; 1- very bad) in order to assess the level of freedom of expression in the country. 113 filled in the anonymous questionnaire, but journalists could choose to announce their names. However, only 12 of them had the courage to do so ( 9 of whom were women) #fpi12
  5. 5. The results• 48 participants out of 113 rated media freedom in Bulgaria as “bad”.• 4 journalists stated it was “excellent”, whilst 5 of them thought it was “good”.• 41 of the participants said the freedom of speech was “satisfying”, while 15 said it was “very bad” #fpi12
  6. 6. The results 79 of the journalists reported that they have witnessed infringements on the freedom of speech, while 25 of them said they have not. According to 57 of the journalists the media they work for is under political pressure, 45 of them said their employer is under economic pressure, while only 12 declared that they haven’t experienced any kind of #fpi12
  7. 7. The results • 30 of the participants said there were such restrains. According to 34 of them such materials are unlikely to be approved by their editorial teams, and 23 declared that such practice is totally banned at their working place. • A total of 22 journalists reported about specific cases of restrictions on freedom of speech. The most frequent situation is advertisers and politicians exerting pressure by calling the editors-in-chief. • 2 of the participants said they were fired after publishing/broadcasting of a certain material which had affected economic or political interests. One of these cases is concerning a #fpi12 who had excellent achievements in his/her field of expertise and had a
  8. 8. Comments on economic pressure:• …Mainly paid material are being written…• …The disappearing of a satiric show in one of the national TV channels after the direct intervention and threatening with financial sanctions by the factual owner of a banking institution, who has interests in the sector of tourism and winter sports…• Widespread dependence on large advertisers. For example – there was a crack down of the IT system of a big telecommunication company that concerned millions of consumers, but it was never covered by the media…• …Verbal pressure from powerful economic actors on the management of the media…• …I have received instructions to write critical articles about companies and other institutions, which had refused to advertise in the media, or about subjects in direct conflict with the employer… #fpi12
  9. 9. Comments on political pressure:• I was prohibited to question the ministers…• …there is a high inflow of compromises in the media.• …Direct telephone calls from senior officials with instructions on what to placed in a publication and what not be, and also what should be the order of their presentation…• …by angry phone calls to publishers or to the editor from the ministers concerned… #fpi12
  10. 10. Media regulations• Bulgaria’s Law on Radio and Television – a paradoxical process because it has requirements regarding content, yet at the same time, it must protect content from interference, including from its own interference.• The Council for Electronic Media (CEM) is the legal body that has to do the job.• The law however does not apply to internet #fpi12
  11. 11. Regulations and elections• During election campaigns the Electoral Code takes away media regulation from the competent body and entrusts it to the Central Electoral Commission.• The month before the elections the media regulation is suspended.• National Television and Bulgarian National Radio are being turned into something like campaign “broadcast channels”.• Bulgarian politicians apportion airtime and determine the forms of ‘political agitation’ in Bulgarian.• The election campaign is seen as one-way communication the function of the media as mediator is weakened.• Closed #fpi12
  12. 12. Public register of media owners• In October 2010 new legislation was adopted that obliged print media to reveal the names of their owners once per year. The new regulation however does not apply to electronic media.• Still the problem is that this register can be easily used to hide the real owner and relevant economic and political interests.• As a result there is a concentration in media ownership, the media market is nearly monopolized by two media #fpi12
  13. 13. The Ethical Code• On 25th of November 2004 all Bulgarian media signed the Ethical Code.• In 2012, following the split of the Publisher’s union, a second Ethical Code is being prepared…• Nevertheless, infringements of the Ethical Code are a common #fpi12
  14. 14. “7 Dni Sport” Case The title: “CSKA’s New Players: Italian, Swede and Two Blackies.” AEJ-Bulgaria demanded the country’s Prosecutor’s Office to start an investigation under Article 162 (1) of the Criminal Code (incitement for hatred and discrimination based on race). Five months later the Prosecutor’s Office declined, because this was usage of “slang language to describe the chaos in the football team” #fpi12
  15. 15. Katya Kasabova’s case• Defamation offences are part of the Criminal Code and serious fines are imposed• Katya Kasabova, a journalist with the Burgas-based daily wrote a story alleged that 40 pupils were improperly admitted to the specialized schools, and that bribes of $300 or more were paid to the admissions commissioners.December 7, 2000. Criminal complaint lodged against Kasabova.May 11, 2002. Burgas District Court finds her guilty.January 17, 2003. Burgas Regional Court upholds the conviction and sentence.July 16, 2003. The applicant takes her case to the European Court.April 19, 2011. Court issues its judgment, finding a violation of Article 10.The judge, who confirmed the sentence, Denitza Petkova is the new Deputy Minister of Justice of #fpi12
  16. 16. The Ghost of the New Media Law• The ruling party GERB is working on a new law for the printed media, allegedly it will be based on the Brandenburg’s media law.• Bulgarian society which is dissatisfied with its own media “by default” and wants the state to end the bad practices in them as soon as possible but, at the same time, suspects that the regulatory authority will impose censorship on them.• What is the solution? #fpi12
  17. 17. Do you agree? #fpi12
  18. 18. Thank you! Camelia Ivanova, AEJ-Bulgaria #fpi12