About the honour of certain “independent” media outlets

Editorial by Telegraph and Monitor

Once upon a time, there was Radio Free Europe (RFE)… It is back, actually, financed by the US Congress. However, the American taxpayers have little idea that their money is being used to serve the oligarchy in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian desk of this otherwise credible radio station does exactly this – it helps oligarchs dreaming of submitting all three branches of power to their will, cleans up their reputations and points a finger at the independent outlets that hamper these individuals from executing their plans. It also manipulates public opinion.

The scheme under which the media battering rams operate is extremely simple and works like a well-oiled machine. The agenda is set by the behind-the-scenes clique. The Capital circle formulates the talking points, which are then picked up by the website Mediapool (owned by Stoyana Georgieva, long-time spokesperson for former prime minister and godfather of the shady privatisation process Ivan Kostov). Then one of Georgieva’s many former employees currently on the payroll of the RFE produces what is supposed to be an analysis, synthesising the same talking points. Thus, hiding behind the good image of the RFE, the behind-the-scenes players have turned a respected media outlet into their reserve battering ram.

It is now clear that there is nothing coincidental about the fact that the revived Bulgarian website of the RFE got the blessing of natural gas tycoon with serious pro-Russian ties Sasho Donchev. It is also clear why the website so strikingly resembles a platform for both the illegal organisation Protest Network and grant-funded entities. Further, it is clear why the Capital circle rejoices at the articles presenting the indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev as an angel. Deep down, however, the staff of the Bulgarian desk of the RFE knows that they have become shameless manipulators and puppet scribblers. Every single one of their analysis reads like something already written elsewhere – in the “good” publications of the “good” oligarchs.

It is not hard for journalism to be distorted to the point of serving as a cover for private oligarchic interests and illegal aspirations to gain control of the independent judicial system. We see it with every attempt of the RFE to fulfil its weekly mission – to gather the talking points of the behind-the-scenes clique and present them in a more plausible package. This week’s task may be described as “Beat the Prosecutor’s Office into submission!”

We cannot overlook the remarkable synchronicity demonstrated by the publications of the oligarchs Ivo Prokopiev and Sasho Donchev in castigating the prosecutors for standing by their opinions. The RFE, however, was a class above anyone else, misrepresenting the situation to an extreme degree. It also dragged some of our media outlets into its campaign by painting them as darlings of the judicial system, pointing out that the newspapers Telegraph and Monitor published by lawmaker of the opposition party MRF Delyan Peevski attended a meeting of the Supreme Judicial Council to discuss the idea of judges being encouraged to explain the motives behind their decisions on cases, “in writing and verbally”, for the benefit of journalists. What does the RFE could possibly have against this initiative of ours is just part of the question – arguing against this reasonable request, which is widely supported by the public, would be a difficult task. Granted, if judges start speaking out, assorted grant-funded associations like the Union of Bulgarian Judges will be rendered obsolete and unable to appropriate the mantle of a spokesperson for judges in the country.

The accusation that we are somehow darlings of the judicial system is shaky at best. We have incontrovertible evidence to fight it. The prosecutorial decision to erase the trademark of the best-selling newspaper in Bulgaria, Telegraph, can hardly be viewed as mollycoddling. And what about receiving a sentence for actually telling the truth about the oligarchs?

Unlike the behind-the-scenes clique’s media outlets, the indicted oligarchs behind which use journalism to handle their private business with the judicial system, we are subjected to constant repression. And the reason is that we uphold the principles of independent journalism. We pay a heavy price for it – we get sued, lose our trademarks. But we are also being read. In contrast with the oligarchs’ media with it miniscule sales, Telegraph and Monitor rely on their readership, which is not that easily swayed by the oligarchs’ lies. Because the truth is the best weapon.

 

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