site.btaJournalists and Media Experts Discuss Self-censorship
Journalists and media experts discussed self-censorship on Tuesday at the Council for Electronic Media (CEM) at an event on on the topic "Self-censorship: a Problem for Bulgarian Journalism?". The reason for the conversation was the latest study on freedom of speech by the Association of European Journalists, which reported at the end of last year a growth in self-censorship among journalists, CEM recalled. According to the research data, the greatest external pressure on reporters was exerted by politicians, state institutions, economic entities and advertisers.
At the opening of the forum, CEM Chair Sonia Momchilova argued that "Bulgarian journalists will not change their mission and their main tasks to pursue and defend the truth by all means". The task of the regulator is to be a guarantor that journalists work calmly, work freely, work without pressure and without interference, she added.
The participants talked about how much censorship affects self-censorship and where it is more pronounced - in public or in commercial media. It was noted that very often journalists become hostages of the commercial departments in the media and that during an election campaign any statement can become a problem for the team and presenters. Working in election studios is quite complicated for journalists, especially considering the financial dimensions of the problem, according to Georgi Lubenov from BNT and Zlatimir Yochev from BTV.
The participants in the discussion defined court cases against media with unbearably high claims (slapp cases) as the execution of the media, such as those conducted against Bivol and Mediapool. The problem lies in the structure of the functioning of the media in Bulgaria, as they do not have the necessary public protection, and when they violate the interest of a given entity, repressive actions are imposed on them, said Assen Yordanov from Bivol. To counter such pressure, there was an idea years ago to create a law on media services to protect the media from the three governing powers and businesses, but the lack of sufficient solidarity and self-organization in the journalistic college has left the issue without consequences. The development of a solution to the problem should be sought in this direction, said Associate Professor Georgi Lozanov, former CEM chair and director of the LIK directorate at BTA.
At the end, Sonia Momchilova called on the media not to become "white noise" and to rely on CEM to support the fulfillment of their professional duty, which they expect them to follow without self-limitations and fear.
The discussion was also attended by Diana Yankulova (BNR), Miroliuba Benatova (TV1), Konstantin Valkov (Darik), Snezhana Todorova (Union of Bulgarian Journalists), Iliya Valkov (AEJ), Vesislava Antonova, Kalin Manolov, Spas Spasov (zaistinata.com platform).