Oligarchy against freedom of speech
Prokopiev, Donev and Donchev have a semi-conspiratorial meeting to which only their media outlets were allowed access
12 January, 2018
Ivo Prokopiev, Sasho Donchev and Ognyan Donev (L-R).
The clique of media oligarchs Ivo Prokopiev, Sasho Donchev and Ognyan Donev organised its latest semi-conspiratorial meeting that saw them complaining for nearly two hours about lack of freedom of speech in Bulgaria and attempting to convince the world that their media outlets were the only objective ones. As is their habit, the currently indicted members of the country's behind-the-scenes clique blamed the state and our publisher Delyan Peevski for all their troubles. The oligarchs spared no expense in holding their pompous event, renting one of the halls of the Sofia Balkan Hotel to host the presentation of their “voluminous work” of a 32-page book, so-called White Paper on Media Freedom in Bulgaria.
The model behind the function was reminiscent of the infamous ARGO meeting, at which Prokopiev and his loyal town criers mulled over how best to put forward their candidate for the presidential race and create their lab-engineered political party that would represent the interests of the Capital oligarchic clique. Unsurprisingly, both, their presidential nominee Traycho Traykov, who has since been indicted in the EVN case, and their pseudo-party Yes, Bulgaria, led by the failed former minister of justice Hristo Ivanov, were spectacular fiascos in the presidential and general elections, respectively. And so, the oligarchs' attempts to take the reins of the country in order to escape the justice system failed.
Besides Ivo Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev, the list of attendees of the secretive gathering also included their loyal town criers Ivan Bedrov, deputy editor-in-chief of Club Z; Teodor Zahov, chairperson of the Union of Publishers in Bulgaria and co-author of the work passed as a White Paper; Stoyana Georgieva, once spokesperson for former PM Ivan Kostov and now head of the media “weapon” that is Mediapool; and representatives of the media outlets of the Capital group and their satellite websites. Sprinkled in there was some international presence - Pauline Ades-Mevel, head of the Balkan desk of Reporters Without Borders, and Valdo Lehari, chairperson of the European Newspaper Publishers' Association.
Despite the daily mantras about how democratic, independent and objective the media outlets owned by these oligarchs are, on the morning of 10 January, Prokopiev, Donev and Donchev revealed their true colours to the world by allowing only journalists from their media outlets to the hall. And so, the representatives of Telegraph, Monitor and Channel 3 were left outside. On his way out Prokopiev threw a barb at them: “I do not believe you qualify as part of the free media, as you are the extension of a political organisation that in no way produces quality and independent journalism.”
It is worth reminding that since the beginning of the year the Capital group and its satellite websites have been sending messages advising journalists to work for freer media outlets, when in reality their own media outlets are the least free, independent and democratic of all. They call for freedom of speech but yet hide themselves and deny other journalists access to their events. Following the Sofia Balkan Hotel gathering, Prokopiev's wife Galya scurried away from the rest of the media and refused to comment on any of the raised questions - why are they fabricating fake news and why did they not allow media outlets outside of their oligarchic group to the event? Natural gas baron Sasho Donchev, who caused quite a scandal after his meeting with Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov and did not seem to mind being in the spotlight then, voicing his complaints, also ran with his tail tucked between his legs. Teodor Zahov, the head of the Union of Publishers in Bulgaria and a loyal partner of Prokopiev in Economedia, also echoed Prokopiev's sentiment that our media outlets were not invited to the event because they were not free. Asked by a Channel 3 reporter whether the aforementioned 32 pages are a resume or the actual book, Zahov said sardonically: “Well, it is a book, concise and clear. This is the best we could manage - write a 32-page book. That is it.” This is all the oligarchic media can do - fill 32 pages with the talking points spread daily by the Fake News Factory of the Capital group; no facts or documents, just slander and unsubstantiated accusations.
Leafing through the book, it is safe to say that the whole White Paper is one big fake news item. As such, it contains not a sliver of truth besides the names of our publisher Delyan Peevski and our media outlets - the newspapers Telegraph and Monitor. Just as the Capital group and the other media “weapons” are diligently working to meet their daily quota of at least three fake news items, the apocryphal book sporting the logo of the Union of Publishers in Bulgaria boasts at least three wild allegations regarding Peevski. Our publisher is once again falsely connected to the failure of CorpBank, even though it has been proven with an official certificate that he has neither outstanding loans nor deposits in the lender that was purposefully ruined by Tsvetan Vassilev. He also does not own assets subject to court cases stemming from the bank's bankruptcy. It is outrageous that in their little book the oligarchs are pinning to him a role in the secondary plunder of CorpBank's assets, when Peevski is among the authors of a bill amending and supplementing the Bank Insolvency Act that has been approved at first reading in the Committee on Legal Affairs. It is intended to arm the bankruptcy administrators with legal recourse to stop the secondary plunder of the lender and return the stolen assets to the bank's insolvency estate.
In the third part of the book, Prokopiev is trying to present himself as a victim because of CIAF's decision to put nearly BGN 200m worth of his property under distraint. As we have revealed, a large chunk of this money came from the shady deal struck for the privatisation of the state-owned mining company Kaolin and its subsequent sale.
The oligarchs' allegation that Peevski's media outlets do not operate on market principles is an absolute lie, as Telegraph, Monitor, Politika and Monitor Agency are the only ones functioning that way and have been exposing the oligarchy's shady deals for the past 10 years. Their revelations have made them a thorn in the side of Tsvetan Vassilev, aka the Bulgarian Madoff, who is hiding in Belgrade, and his fellow oligarchs mentored by Ivan Kostov - Ivo Prokopiev, Sasho Donchev and Ognyan Donev.
Unlike the Capital group and its affiliated websites, our media outlets have not received a single cent in state subsidies or European Union funding.
The book also does not fail to mention another of the oligarchs' favourite talking points, circulated also by the team of cartoonists employed by Donev and publishing Prass Press - namely that Peevski holds a monopoly in the distribution of the press in Bulgaria. This is the latest ludicrous allegation about our publisher that has been debunked numerous times. To strengthen their talking points, the oligarchs for the umpteenth time attribute to Peevski non-existent connections in Bulgartabac, even though he sold his minority share back in 2016 and has had nothing to do with the company since.
The semi-conspiratorial meeting of the indicted oligarchs and their minions proves only one thing - the fear and panic that has gripped them as a result of the decision for the entire privatisation process to be investigated.
They are slandering the state because of being indicted
The oligarch's current state of fear and panic is partly rooted in the fact that those same businessmen have been indicted and charged with various crimes. Consequently, their desire to take the reins of the state is actually an attempt to escape the justice system. Ivo Prokopiev has been indicted in the EVN case - the investigation into his dealings began in early 2017 and the case will be heard in the Specialised Criminal Court. Among the defendants in the EVN case are also former ministers Traycho Traykov and Simeon Djankov. The pharmaceutical tycoon Ognyan Donev has been charged with tax evasion to the tune of BGN 60m. The main weapon in the attempted coup against the Prosecutor's Office was the owner of Overgas Sasho Donchev because of whom the natural gas price is rising. He tried to discredit Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov with the Central Universal Shop scandal.