Bulgaria | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Bulgaria

Bulgaria

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

35

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

13

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

12

Status change explanation: Bulgaria's status declined from Free to Partly Free to reflect increased government influence over public media outlets as well as a rise in the use of libel suits against journalists and publishers.

The most serious problems in the Bulgarian media landscape are political control over state broadcasters, a politicized process of allocating licenses, and manipulation of advertising, which threatens the position of independent media, especially at the local and regional levels. Coercion of the press comes both from the government and from criminal organizations. In November, the government proposed amendments to the criminal code that would have made it a crime for anyone, including journalists, to disclose classified information, even if it served the public interest or caused no harm to national security interests, an approach that is inconsistent with European standards. After protests by local and international NGOs, parliament dropped the proposals. Libel and defamation are considered criminal offenses, and although prison sentences as a penalty for libel have been eliminated, journalists charged with libel are penalized with high fines. Local watchdog groups have expressed concern that the number of suits brought against journalists by the government has been increasing in recent years. Violence against journalists still exists, mostly due to organized crime and the climate of impunity fostered by a weak judiciary. A number of journalists were attacked in 2003 as a result of their investigation into the underworld. In such an environment, many journalists practice self-censorship; investigative journalism about corruption and organized crime is rare. There are nine nationwide dailies (two of which are controlled by the German concern Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ)), two nationwide weeklies, and more than 50 local dailies and weeklies. WAZ monopolizes the newspaper market through dumping policies on prices, distribution, and advertising. There are three national television stations, two private ones, and the public broadcaster, Bulgarian National Television, which is perceived to be under the control of the ruling coalition and to lack editorial independence.