US Human Rights Report on Bulgaria: Authorities Take Steps to Address Human Rights Abuses, Impunity Remains Problem

March 14 (BTA) - The Bulgarian authorities took
steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed human
rights abuses, but government actions were insufficient, and
impunity was a problem, reads the US Department of State's Human
 Rights report's section on Bulgaria.

The 33 pages-long resume of the report on Bulgaria notes that
the main human rights issues included physical mistreatment of
detainees and convicts by officials; harsh conditions in prisons
 and detention facilities; corruption, inefficiency, and a lack
of accountability in the judicial system; mistreatment of
migrants and asylum seekers; corruption in all branches of
government; and violence against ethnic minorities.

While the government has mechanisms to investigate and punish
abuse and corruption, implementation was inadequate, and
impunity was a problem, the report notes.

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the
press, and the government generally respected this right.
Concerns persisted, however, that corporate and political
pressure, combined with the growing and nontransparent
concentration of media ownership and distribution networks, as
well as government regulation of resources and support for the
media, gravely damaged media pluralism.  

The International Research and Exchanges Board's (IREX) 2018
Media Sustainability Index identified "steadily escalating
political pressure on the media" as well as daily "harassment
and pressure against journalists and media owners." IREX noted
the existence of a deep division of "warring camps" in the
media, resulting in smear campaigns and increasing "aggressive
propaganda." Reports of intimidation and violence against
journalists continued.

The media were active and expressed a wide variety of views.
Laws restricting "hate speech" also applied to print media.
According to the Reporters without Borders (RSF) July report on
investigative journalism, investigative journalists and media
were "followed, intimidated, discouraged through smear
campaigns, and labeled 'enemy of the state'."

The report's part about elections in Bulgaria says that no major
 irregularities had been reported during the snap general
elections in March 2017, and most political commentators
considered the election free and fair. According to Transparency
 International Bulgaria, the incidence of voter intimidation and
 other forms of improper influence increased, while vote buying
decreased compared with previous elections. LI/MY


Source: Washington