Bulgaria continues to slide in the Reporters without Borders media freedom index and occupies 111th place in the 2018 ranking, marking a drop of two places compared to 2017, sources reported.
“Corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs is widespread. The most notorious embodiment of this aberrant state of affairs is Delyan Peevski (an MP from the DPS), a former head of Bulgaria’s main intelligence agency and owner of the New Bulgarian Media Group,” Reporters without Borders’ report pointed out.
According to the report, the Peevski group “has six newspapers and controls nearly 80% of print media distribution.” It added that “Threats and attacks against journalists have intensified in recent months. It can prove dangerous to be a journalist in Bulgaria.”
Peevski was nominated to run the new intelligence agency, DANS, by Sergei Stanishev, the leader of the Party of European Socialists, in June 2013. Stanishev was influential in 2013 as the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), at a time when the country had a caretaker socialist-supported cabinet. But the media mogul did not take the office, because the nomination triggered huge protests.
In December 2017, Bulgarian opposition parties exposed what they saw as an attempt to silence and close down media considered unfriendly to the government of Boyko Borissov.
Bulgaria has fallen from 36th in the annual Reporters without Borders ranking on the Freedom of Speech Index in 2006 to the current 111th place. In the wider Balkan region, Romania is ranked highest (44), followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina (62), Croatia (69), Greece (74), Albania (75), Serbia (76), Kosovo (78), Montenegro (103), Macedonia (109).
The latest case of harassment of a Bulgarian journalist took place a month ago. Hristo Geshov, a reporter from the town of Cherven Bryag, said that he and his family were subjected to pressure after publishing a series of exposés about irregularities in the municipal government.
Geshov revealed that three municipal councilors from Cherven Bryag were using EU funds to renovate their houses. According to the Commission for conflicts of interest, everything was above board, though the Ministry of Regional Development disagreed.