Lozan Panov and Boets team up against inconvenient media
The chairperson of the SCC gives a lecture at an event organised by Tsvetan Vassilev’s NGOMonitor News Agency
The infamous head of the Supreme Court of Cassation (SCC) Lozan Panov and the NGO Boets, which is controlled by the fugitive banker hiding from the Bulgarian judicial system Tsvetan Vassilev, recently teamed up publicly against the “inconvenient media”. The unpalatable scene unfolded at a conference held under the slogan “Independent court – free state. On the legal system and justice”. The event was co-organised by the NGO serving the political aspirations of Hristo Ivanov, failed former minister of justice and current leader of the political organisation Yes, Bulgaria.
However, the conference quickly turned into a trampling of freedom of speech and was reduced to a lecture by the SCC chairperson Lozan Panov before a bunch of hand-picked media outlets, as the rest of the media was not allowed to attend.
Several days earlier, invitations for the event were received by journalists of the newspaper Monitor via email; they featured a stipulation that participation should be confirmed by a registration request sent to a specified email address in advance. In the end, Monitor journalists were not allowed to the event despite having complied with this condition.
Asked why this was happening, a man wearing a nametag reading Atanas Sharkov, who introduced himself as a member of the organising committee, explained, “The invitation serves only the purpose of informing you about the event. Even though you registered, we never approved your accreditation.” In response to the remark that need of such approval was never mentioned, the man, visibly irate at that point, snapped, “There are only accreditation badges for the media outlets in whose coverage we are interested,” adding that these are media outlets that “report about us in the right way”.
He accused all journalists not allowed to attend Panov’s lecture of being responsible for Bulgaria’s 111th spot on the global freedom of speech ranking. Meanwhile, journalists who had not even bothered to register for the event got their names added to the list and, apparently being part of the select few media outlets, were allowed in the hall where the latest musings of judge №1 on the judicial system and justice in the country were about to be presented.
As representatives of the inconvenient media were weeded out on the spot in the hotel lobby, the head of the initiative Justice for All Petromir Kanchev stayed to the side and let the unfamiliar faces tasked with handling registration explain to journalists why they were being denied access to the event. Security guarded the entrance to the hall and carefully checked everyone for badges. Dozens of the white badges prepared for guests of the lecture were left unused, as many simply did not show up to the event. Many of the yellow badges, intended for members of the media, also remained untouched for the same reason.
At the same time, the perpetually disgruntled author and politician Yolo Denev managed to get in. Nikolay “Barefoot” Kolev, who passes himself off as a dissident and a journalist, turned up, oddly enough, with a metal measuring tape that he unfurled from time to time and he, too, was allowed to enter the hall without trouble. Hristo Nikolov, who is a constant presence at protests organised by Justice for All and Boets and who gravitates to Yes, Bulgaria, was without his constant companion, the megaphone, and decked out in a white suit. Also present was the infamous former head of the Sofia District Court Metodi Lalov. No other prominent figures, legal practitioners or public figures, were spotted among the attendees.
The event, obviously organised with a hefty budget provided by anonymous sponsors, was held to an extremely low interest. There were no more than 40 people in the 200-seat hall, most of them known for being defenders and mouthpieces of the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev as well as “protesters on the payroll”.
A few moments before the start of the event, Panov arrived at the hotel and answered those journalistic questions he deemed appropriate. First, he said he would not resign over the investigation into how his wife, Elisaveta Panova, acquired a luxury home at unrealistically low prices from the infamous construction company Arteks. Panov also descried as “unacceptable for Bulgarian legislation” the idea for amendments to the Judicial System Act that would allow for the triumvirate of the prosecutor general, the head of the SCC, and the president of the Supreme Administrative Court to be investigated too. “I am being looked into as it is – by the tax authorities and the Anti-Corruption Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture,” he said. Panov also added that, to his knowledge, the European Commission has not asked for the heads of supreme courts to be investigated and refused to explain why his wife recently made numerous appearances in carefully selected media outlets to defend him.