Publication Date: December 2017
Research and Editorial Team: Journalists and editors from members of UPB
The Media Freedom White Paper

Setting international rankings on freedom of media (such as the measurements published by Reporter Without Borders and Freedom House ) as a starting point, this report by UPB presents a number of reasons that contributed to the dramatic deterioration of media freedom and pluralism in Bulgaria. These reasons can be summarized as follows:

  • The media environment is dominated by corruption, ties between media, politicians and oligarchs. Delyan Peevski, an MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), and “a group of people united around him” are presented as the main example of this kind of entangled environment.
  • The “New Bulgarian Media Group” which comprises 6 newspapers, controls 80% of the distribution market in Bulgaria, and is ascribable to Peevski, features the risks of a highly concentrated media ownership.
  • The current concentration of media ownership is mostly due to the fact that the Bulgarian media market has become increasingly unattractive from a business perspective. After the 2008 economic crisis several foreign media investors decided to sell their publishing and media outlets (German Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung in 2010; Swedish Bonnier in 2011; Swedish Sanoma Magazines International in 2013). The withdrawal of foreign investors led to a market shift among the publishers with Bulgarian capital. This way, business-oriented investors were largely replaced by politically motivated owners who perceived the media as a tool for impact, control and public influence.

The report underlines the pressures (including defamatory campaigns; investigations; lawsuits and claims of tax evasion) faced by both national and regional media that is critical toward Peevski. One of these media outlets was also penalised by the refusal of the major distributors (under Peevski’s control) to sell it.

Finally the report also underlines the lack of transparency on the way Bulgarian government directs European funds to certain media, recommending the European Commission to launch an international investigation of concentration and unfair competition on the Bulgarian media market.

Tags: Bulgaria Media freedom Media ownership Media pluralism Freedom of expression Censorship

The content of this article can be used according to the terms of Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) . To do so use the the wording "this article was originally published on the Resource Centre on Media Freedom in Europe" including a direct active link to the original article page.