Topics taboo in Bulgarian online media

The head of the project – political and media expert Dr. Ivo Indzhov.
Photo: private archive
Funding of media: subsidies from the state, from foreign foundations, as well as the finances, standing behind regional media – this has been definitely the most neglected topic across Bulgarian websites over the past year. That is what the results from the Taboo Topics in Bulgarian Online Media, 2013 research project show. It has been prepared by a team of the Institute of Modern Politics with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. It turns out that within a very short period the America for Bulgaria foundation has allocated EUR 2.5 mln. for the funding of several media only. The report further reads that certain media were generously funded last year by the government under the popularization of European operational programmes. The institute presumes that this fact has resulted in a change of the editorial policy of these editions. The funding of the regional websites, some of them in the hands of local oligarchs and politicians remains a white spot in their activity.
The institute team claims that in 2012 the non reporting phenomenon was firstly researched in view of online media. The survey sifted out 18 taboo topics. An authoritative jury determined Top 10 among those. The subject on the supposedly dark past of former PM Boyko Borissov comes second, covered widely by the Bivola website and Der Standard and Tageszeitung European newspaper. No one has managed to ask direct questions to Boyko Borissov on the Wikileaks grammas, the report further reads. The falsification of the 2011 presidential and local polls comes third. Anti-consumer practices of banks and mobile operators are listed in Top 10, explained by the fact that they are a major advertiser. There is a lack of systematic coverage of abuses and corruption within the interior ministry and the State Agency for National Security /SANS/, also of the Roma topic beyond the traditional criminal aspect.

Political pressure and the attempt for the imposing of restrictive media legislation cover the reasons for the bad media environment in Bulgaria, says head of the project – political and media expert Dr. Ivo Indzhov. He reminded the unflattering 87th position that Bulgaria takes, regarding media freedom in the latest rankings of Reporters Without Borders.

“Bulgaria is ranked last for the EU in that list,” Dr. Indzhov goes on to say. “Italy with its defective Berlusconi media model is 57th. Hungary, with that rough governmental pressure there and the resulting restrictive legislation comes 56th. Romania, with its major media magnates, who do not hide, comes 42nd. Bulgaria is that bad because it has problems in its media sector. Problems should be sought elsewhere, besides the political pressure. Those appear mainly in the growth of media concentration, in the blossoming of corporate journalism that is linked to the property structure of a large part of Bulgarian media. Many of those, mostly printed editions are a part of economic and financial groups. Those are owned by businessmen, who have other interests than to establish, develop and guarantee free and independent media. They need media for trade of influence, when receiving protection from politicians or from those, who govern and they should thank them. Thus media are used as a trade coin for the winning of public procurements and other…”

Dr. Ivo Indzhov went on to say more on the reasons for the taboo topics:
“This is blind slavery to news. There are subjects of public interest that remain uncovered and so the journalists avoid them without any pressure from the outside. Besides that authors often cannot restrict their own views and passions on topics like minorities or people with disabilities. Sometimes journalists are simply not ready to tackle more complicated subjects.”

English version: Zhivko Stanchev

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