Fake News Factory flunks after IQOS deal

Delyan Peevski has nothing to do with either Bulgartabak or smokeless cigarettes

The organizers of smearing campaign from the Fake News Factory have again resorted to insidious manipulation of facts on the occasion of e-cigarettes excise duty rise. Once again for no apparent reason the No.1 target of their lies is our publisher and MP Delyan Peevski.

The motive for a yet another campaign is the idea of the government to align the excise tax rates on smokeless cigarettes, now popular as IQOS, with that of the traditional ones. The change would result in more revenues for the state budget but would also lead to prices rise on the tobacco market. Only some days after the idea was voiced the media space in Bulgaria was flooded with insinuations branding this draft bill as “lobbyist” and “catering to the interests of Delyan Peevski”, because allegedly it would keep down the competitors of Bulgartabak. An avalanche of fake news made Premier Boyko Borissov to withdraw the draft project in order to stop the speculations.

Again the talking point is that Peevski is to blame for everything – this time for the rocketing price of IQOS. This is a classical trick of the Fake News Factory. In this case we are talking about a double lie that can be seen with the naked eye. First of all, Delyan Peevski has nothing to do with Bulgartabak. Over two years ago he sold his 5% minority share in the tobacco holding. This information is available not only in the official company registries but even in the publications of the media related to the Capital circle and their associate websites that also spread it. On top of all, last year Bulgartabak company have sold its primary cigarette brands to British American Tobacco (BAT) and, as marketing research shows, currently the main actors on the tobacco market are the foreign companies. Thus, Peevski has nothing to do with Bulgartabak. As for Bulgartabak, it does not produce Bulgarian cigarette brands, which is no secret to Capital. The company is now an outsourcing business of BAT.

The scenario for the fake news campaign dedicated to this theme is illustrative of two things: the first is that chair of the parliamentary budget committee Menda Stoyanova (GERB) who moved the proposal for the increase of the excise duty is allegedly “defending Peevski”, according to Frognews. This is the first manipulation. The website’s owner is a State Security agent, aka Academician, Ognyan Stefanov who is currently on trial for shady financing provided by fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev.

Frognews is on the periphery of the Fake News Factory. They have low ratings because they always publish apparent lies and try to manipulate their readers. In this case Frognews was enacted to spread the “talking point” on the internet so that in the coming days and hours it could be picked up by the “more serious” associate media, such as Mediapool and Dnevnik. Thus they also embrace this talking point, but under more covert modifications, such as “Bulgartabak is Peevki’s sphere of interest”, it is “related to Peevski”. All are just wanton manipulations aimed to cover an apparent lie.

This propaganda campaign has evolved into a stage when one of the semi-anonymous MPs of the ruling coalition by name of Alexander Sabanov, tried to become a media star explaining how he opposed the excise rise because “you all know who is in the tobacco business” and it was transparent in the media. However, the news was welcome by the Fake News Factory, as it quotes their own talking points, now remodeled and promoted as statements of one particular MP. So, according to Goebbels propaganda principles, “a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The IQOS case is just an episode in a long-year backstage practice in Bulgaria – to ruin inconvenient businesses and public figures using fake news. Our publisher has been No.1 target of the Fake News Factory for over a decade, i.e. since he and his family own our Telegraph media group that voices all kinds of unwelcome to oligarchy opinions. The Fake News Factory used to hit the oligarchy adversaries generating lies. Their all-purpose claim was “Peevski is to blame for everything.” At an opportune moment a certain company, let’s say in the construction business, was earmarked as “close to Peevski”, for instance, and it has always been done to smear some government tender and propel a “proper” company.

Propaganda campaigns have been launched against “unwelcome” companies during the renovation of the Bulgarian State Railways, defense complex and all other branches where a certain actor had to be eliminated, be him a big foreign investor.

The foundation of a parallel state controlling these processes under the model of Fethullah Guellen of Turkey was laid by the Bulgarian Fethullah – Ivan Kostov. During the time of criminal privatization under his rule he has fostered oligarchs who amassed fortunes, such as Ivo Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev and Tsvetan Vassilev. Within these years they have increased their wealth at the expense of common people draining the state treasury. Companies like Caolin and Damynitsa have been privatized by Prokopiev for peanut money. Donev now holds the monopoly over pharmaceutical business after a brutal raid against the state companies in this branch.

During Kostov’s reign Bulgarian Madoff Tsvetan Vassilev bought a bank via ten offshore companies and then built a financial pyramid around it. Later, after ripping off the CorpBank’s depositors he fled abroad leaving behind a BGN 4.7bn worth hole in the banks’ treasury.

All of these people fostered by Kostov who acquired their wealth in a criminal way overtly or covertly are financing the media that cater to their interests using them as “battering rams” against their competitors and as a shield against criminal prosecution. The most flagrant example is the case of Ognyan Donev, who was charged with gross tax evasion but nevertheless later financed creation of a designer website and semi-underground magazine and all of a sudden started to position himself as an independent publisher persecuted by the “bad guys” from the authorized state institutions for his media activity. The oligarch gang set up by Kostov has grown so big that now its tentacles reach the judicial power, politics and NGOs. Thus, being deprived of real public power but owing billions stolen from people, the oligarchs are ruling the roost in the country’s public life. Their actual power has attained the nationwide scale and their insolent whims even explain the miserable pensions in Bulgaria. This octopus oligarchy has been strangling Bulgaria for decades, draining the state. It is high time now that somebody put an end to it.






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