Journalism of fake news

bTV went with a disproven fake news on its broadcast, Reporters Without Borders wrote a disinformation-riddled report

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Journalism has always been a force in Bulgaria, but nowadays it has been tarnished by the ambition of a group of people to hold the rights to everything – civil society, democracy, and truth. Embittered by their own fear that they have “control” over these elements only through a web of pawns, these behind-the-scenes players are keen to grab a stranglehold of journalism as well. So that they can hold it captive in some basement, bound and gagged, and silence it as the public conscious is left with fake news only.

Writing for public consumption has had a profound impact on people going back to the time when the writers of the Bulgarian National Revival and their messages published in secretly distributed newspapers helped their enslaved compatriots keep their hope for a new world alive. To this day, many newspapers count among the last bastions of quality journalism – using verified facts and steering clear of the interests of anonymous benefactors that hide behind so many of the opinion and news pieces. What is put down on paper remains for eternity – it is a type of historical evidence that has stood the test of time.

In an era of fake news and outright propaganda, it is no surprise that national media outlets dare to include not just fake news but publicly disproven (years ago at that) ones in their primetime news broadcasts. Well, former PM Ivan Kostov did say once that the public has short memory so we should hardly be surprised that these days his protégés count on that short memory to spin their web of lies. Besides, when an entire Reporters Without Borders report is based on disinformation, what is to stop TV networks and websites in Bulgaria from using this method? It is despicable and unacceptable but, apparently, a fact of life.

Last Friday, a clinic on disinformation build on fake news was put on by one of the leading TV networks in Bulgaria – bTV. In the last workday of the week, the channel, which advertises its news programme with the slogan “Covering all viewpoints”, aired in its primetime broadcast a short piece about the list of Movement for Rights and Freedoms candidates for the European Parliament. According to unconfirmed information, the person who got the second-most nominations is Delyan Peevski, Telegraph Media publisher and one of the current lawmakers representing the opposition party. bTV felt no compunction about embellishing the news with a lie that was disproven some 5 years ago – that the European liberals did not want Peevski to hold such a position.

Who exactly is against Peevski is betrayed by the place of origin of that fable and the way it is still worming its way through the media. The original source of the lie is the website Euractiv of Georgi Gotev, who is connected to the Capital oligarchic circle (of the indicted Ivo Prokopiev) and can regularly be spotted at roundtable discussions in the company of representatives of that same shadowy organisation. The fabrication was immediately copy-pasted in Bulgaria by the publications controlled by the oligarch Ivo Prokopiev. After the fabrication went on to have its own life in the media, it was officially refuted – first by Filiz Hyusmenova, leader of the list of MRF candidates for the European Parliament at the time, and then by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

All of this can be found on the internet, if there is an interest to do so, of course. True, these disinformation-reliant publications put the Euractiv lie in the headline five years ago while the corrective statement was squeezed into half a sentence at the end of the text, but the truth can just as easily be found today too.

Who has interest in keeping Peevski out of Brussels? To cite writer Charles Bukowski, “People with no morals often considered themselves freer, but mostly they lacked the ability to feel or think rationally. So they embraced casual sex with oligarchs.” In other words, these are oligarchs afraid that the truth, which in Bulgaria manages to surface only through the print media (as Prokopiev boasted in the ARGO-gate records, he controls mainstream media and orders TV channels and websites who to “hit” or “put in their place” and how), may reach Europe as well. Peevski has been a constant source of headache for the shadowy circles in Bulgaria because of the bills he has introduced to parliament – aimed at introducing transparency to media financing and stopping the plundering of assets acquired with CorpBank depositors’ money. Can you imagine what this sworn enemy of the oligarchs can do on the European stage?

This is why they lie that ALDE pressured him to give up his spot as an MEP. This fake news was disproven even before the 2014 European Parliament election in Bulgaria was held. The truth can be easily ascertained, if there is a will to do so, that is. Here is what Delyan Peevski said on the election night five years ago. You will find it sounds pretty relevant today as well.

Delyan Peevski on the election night, 25 May 2014

“Good evening, first of all I would like to thank our supporters for giving us their votes and once again showing that we have a certain place in the political landscape and that we cannot be pushed aside. Thank you for the trust you have put in us. I would also like to thank the party’s structures for the confidence they showed in me personally – confidence that I value greatly and hope to have justified (with the results) despite the yearlong campaign of undeserved attacks against me in the media. I never quite understood of what they were accusing me. Even on the way (here) certain people serving other masters chased me, asking veiled questions whose answers have long been clear to their masters, who, for their part, were obviously spooked by my nomination for head of the State Agency for National Security (SANS); there was a reason behind all of this. Even so, I harbour no ill will towards anyone. The decision to head SANS was also motivated by a desire to serve Bulgaria. As you all saw, I stepped down in response to the public outcry to the appointment. I never did hear what the objections were to my taking the position. For an entire year, we heard this ‘Peevski, Peevski, who, who?’ chant. Who what? If I had heard a specific accusation, I would have understood and gotten out of politics entirely, but in the course of that year I did not hear a single legitimate complaint or evidence against me. The authorities are constantly bombarded with false reports about audits of me and my family – I will endure and go through this too, but when all is finally done, will someone apologise to me for it? This is what I would like to ask – not the people who filed the false reports, of course, because they have orders to follow and will never have the decency to apologise. But this is in the past now. I do not want to talk about it any further. Once again, thank you to our voters and party structures. They kept me going in this past year and gave me the strength to reach this point. I would not have made it without them. I would like to tell them that I will always be beside them and work for their wellbeing because they are the reason I am here. As for being an MEP – it is not a goal in and of itself for me and I will prove this to you this evening. After all that the party structures did and the trust they placed in me in this election, I feel that it is my moral duty to stand beside them for many more years to come and repay their trust. This is why I am going to give my seat in the European Parliament to Ms Iskra Mihaylova, with whom I have been working together on many elections and will continue to do so in the future. She is an expert who has a lot to give to Brussels and Bulgaria; she will do the position of an MEP justice and is someone who values our party and voters greatly. I wish her success and may she fight for the country’s interest in Brussels – something I will continue to do in Bulgaria. Thank you!”

 

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