New anti-record: 6 publications, 3 fake news, 1 sponsor - the shadowy clique

Telegraph Media with initiative for media outlets to disclose their financing sources, including corporate ones

The positive Brussels report, which brought the best possible news for our country last week, i.e. the end in sight to the CVM monitoring of Bulgaria, coupled with the promulgation of the media act amendments aimed at introducing transparency into media ownership and funding in the country, served as a thorn in the side of the behind-the-scenes clique and the publications it sponsors.

Faced with the growing threat of not only losing their main instrument of exerting pressure on the state and blasting it abroad, but of having the non-market methods through which they pour money into all sorts of websites being exposed, the oligarchs rushed to put the resident town criers of their Fake News Factory to some serious work. The result is yet another unfortunate record - in the span of just 24 hours, six publications, known to receive strong financial backing from the oligarchs with money they stole from taxpayers, copy-pasted and disseminated on the internet three fake news items with the help of 'mouthpieces' put in place by those same oligarchs. In a now more-than-familiar strategy, all three fake news items, even though concerning different topics, target mainly our publisher, MP Delyan Peevski, one of the proponents of the aforementioned media act amendments intended to improve media market transparency. The overdrive mode of the oligarchy's slandering machine, however, is betraying the roles that its cogs are tasked to play in the spreading of fake news. And so, the first manipulation, standing on the legs of the new attack that former constitutional judge Rumen Nenkov led against the Constitutional Court's work on 16 November, was taken up by three of the Factory's outlets over the weekend, with only hours separating their moves. These are frognews.bg, mignews.info and transmedia.bg, all connected to fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev, who embezzled billions of levs from CorpBank.

And while the Vassilev-controlled outlets' coverage made sure to assist Nenkov's attack meant to undermine Brussels' confidence in Bulgaria's Constitutional Court with unfounded allegations that the institution is acting under political pressure, the websites owned by Vassilev's partners in the oligarchic Union of Publishers in Bulgaria (UPB) - the indicted Ivo Prokopiev and Ognyan Donev, were busy generating and retransmitting the rest of the fake news items. In performing this task, they got help from other “experts”, like political commentator Ognyan Minchev and self-proclaimed media analyst Neli Ognyanova, whose career in the public eye has been directly linked to the term in office and shadowy funding of former PM Ivan Kostov.

Minchev, citing a last-minute-addition passage in the EU report on the media environment in Bulgaria, resurrected in a Facebook post the talking point about an imaginary “Peevski model” and a media monopoly. And even though this talking point is old, false, and has been disproved dozens of times, it was once again actively parroted by Club Z of Ognyan Donev, who has admitted himself to banning his journalists from writing about the pharmaceutical industry he lords over, and by Terminal 3 of Ivet Dobromirova, who is linked to Ivo Prokopiev's Capital circle. Minchev's Facebook post was inspired by another fake news item, generated by Club Z on Friday and repeated on Saturday by the website of Stoyana Georgieva, who used to head the press office of Kostov's government.

Club Z is also behind two other fake news. One is trying to present the fuel protest as also aimed against Peevski, even though the lawmaker in opposition has nothing to do with oil and diesel prices. The other is about the Bulgarian media and uses a Neli Ognyanova interview as a starting point. Incidentally, the interview was conducted by a person officially employed by the newspaper Sega of Sasho Donchev, another of Prokopiev's and Donev's infamous partners and member of the UPB. The author is also part of the Association of European Journalists - Bulgaria. All these connections are obvious to anyone who knows the media market in Bulgaria and consumes its content objectively. There could hardly be any doubt that they are accompanied by serious money flows coming from the oligarchs in question, who try to pass as publishers.

Precisely because of these facts, with the goal of stopping the manipulation of Bulgarian readers in mind, Telegraph Media is launching an initiative for shining a light on media financing immediately, including online outlets, and the corporate funding injections from their bosses. We are talking about not waiting for the media act amendments to take full effect. To set the tone, we are prepared to publish information about our media group's funding, which will show that we are the only ones who rely solely on market-principle funding and not a cent from European subsidies, public procurement orders, or grants. Unlike us, the abovementioned websites, as well as the rest of the UPB members' publications, cannot say the same. It has been revealed that the origin of BGN 4.5 million of Economedia's annual revenues is unclear. Prokopiev and his people should answer the question of whether this money comes from the shady deals he is being tried for in court. Club Z should also be open about whether it gets financial injections secured by the tax evasion for which Ognyan Donev has been indicted. And the Bulgarian public should ask itself how much longer it will allow Kostov and his proteges to hijack its agenda with shameless manipulations and lies. This is why we embrace the initiative for a media debate in Bulgaria with the participation of European Union commissioners. It would help the truth come out.

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