According to RSF investigative journalism faces serious obstacles in Bulgaria

July 19, 2018 | Legislation and Regulatory Frameworks

New report by media freedom watchdog says Bulgarian reporters can produce investigations more easily than ever – but not publish them – and condemns the failure to prosecute offenders for intimidating journalists

Source: BalkanInsight

Bulgaria's Record in Protecting Investigative Journalists 'Shameful', RSF

By Martin Dimitrov

The international media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, RSF, in a new report published on Thursday, says investigative journalism still faces serious obstacles in Bulgaria.

The report comes just weeks after Bulgaria's parliament backed controversial amendments to print publishing legislation that obliges media outlets to reveal the sources of their income.

The controversial amendments, backed by the MPs of the ruling coalition between the center-right GERB party and the nationalist United Patriots blok, passed without amendments on its first reading.

They were pushed by a politician and media mogul from the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, MRF, Delyan Peevski, in February. His New Bulgarian Media Group runs six newspapers and controls nearly 80 per cent of print media distribution in the country.

According to the RSF report, the new law will add to the pressure on those media that rely on grants and foreign donations to maintain their independence. The report notes that, despite relatively good conditions for conducting investigations in Bulgaria, an oligarchical media environment still leaves investigative reporters at risk in terms of their wellbeing and public standing.

“Producing quality journalistic investigations is not a problem for Bulgarian journalists. However, publishing them, gaining publicity and achieving the desired effect is a problem,” the report said.

It added that journalists are often subjected to various forms of intimidation, physical assaults and smear campaigns for their work.

RSF also condemned what it called the “shameful record” of the state in investigating the routine intimidation of reporters.

The organisation points out that “not a single case has been solved and nobody has ever been charged by the public prosecutor for assault on journalists”. More positively, the organisation underscored that the cheap and easy access to public registers, the abundancy of open data and the increasing importance of the Access to Public Information Act, ZDOI, has given willing journalists from print, online and TV media more ways to develop investigative stories.

Self-censorship and various forms of pressure, however, as well as lack of sustainable funding mechanisms and enough staff dedicated to investigations, hinder investigators’ efforts, RSF concluded. borders-highlight-obstacles-before-bulgarian-investigative- journalism-07-19-2018