Bulgaria | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Bulgaria

Bulgaria

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 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

Despite constitutional guarantees for freedom of the press, the Bulgarian media landscape is plagued by political control; manipulation of advertising, especially at local and regional levels; and pressures on the press from the government, private owners, and criminal organizations. In September, two journalists were fined for refusing to reveal their source for a controversial article. Libel by a journalist is defined as a criminal offense and is punishable by high fines. According to the European Union, the number of libel cases has increased and the risk of prosecution has led to self-censorship. The Access to Information Program reported problems with accessing information, frequent denials, and unanswered requests, particularly from minorities. The European Commission alleged that weak legislation is hindering the independence of the Council of Electronic Media (CEM), the broadcasting regulatory authority. Members of the CEM, who appoint the directors of Bulgarian National Television (BNT) and Bulgarian National Radio, are chosen partly by the president and partly by the national assembly, which continues to exercise control over the media. In March 2004, the CEM dismissed the director of BNT for mismanagement. Later, this decision was revoked in court, with appeals pending.

In November, representatives from Bulgaria's media signed a new ethics code. State-owned media present a variety of political views, but inefficiency of legislation allows for continued state control. Nongovernmental organizations and media associations describe the situation as risky for freedom of speech. In November, a Romanian journalist was arrested for unauthorized use of a concealed camera in a duty-free shop on the Romanian-Bulgarian border while on assignment for his station. The journalist faced up to three years' imprisonment, but international pressure forced the government to expedite the case, and the journalist was subsequently ordered to pay a fine. Press freedom organizations labeled the arrest a restriction on investigative reporting and a politicized use of an archaic law. A British reporter was also investigated for using a concealed camera as well as "inciting corruption" for a BBC television program. Violence against and harassment of journalists, particularly minority journalists, still exist, mostly the result of organized crime and a climate of impunity fostered by a weak judiciary.

Bulgaria provides a diverse range of independent and private newspapers. The press market is relatively stable, boasting many independent and private dailies and weeklies. However, the German media holding company WAZ, which has established a near monopoly of circulation as well as advertising revenue, dominates the market. Because of business interests of newspaper owners, editorial teams refrain from investigating or commenting on certain problems in the state. Owing to a low subscription base, advertising, particularly government advertising, is the only serious income generator.