Peevski, the media and the distortion mirror of Reporters Without Borders

Delyan Peevski

Do you know the Italian version of the Bulgarian idiom meaning “to talk incessantly about the same thing”? It is literally translated as “still the same soup”. Pauline Adès-Mével, head of Reporters Without Borders’s (RSF) eastern Europe and Balkans desk since 2017, may be French-born but she acts equally Italian and Bulgarian when it comes to those two phrases, as she is regurgitating the same talking points and eating “the same soup” courtesy of the chef of the Capital circle – indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev.

The latest foray into the Bulgarian public space made by the RSF official, whose journalistic career actually started in the USSR, happened as a guest of the noon programme of the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR). In the span of just 12 minutes, she managed to provide days’ worth of fake-news fodder for the manipulations machine controlled by Prokopiev and his oligarchic cronies Tsvetan Vassilev, Sasho Donchev and Ognyan Donev. Some of its cogs were quick to react – like the website Frognews of Ognyan Stefanov, aka former State Security agent Academician, which serves as personal press office of the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev.

Adès-Mével’s connection to that group of people goes way back but was not exposed in Bulgaria until early 2018, when she appeared before specifically selected cameras and puppet reporters in the starring role in a somewhat secretive gathering organised by Prokopiev, Donev and Donchev to present their pompously titled pamphlet White Paper on Media Freedom. The goal of said event, held by three “publishers” who use their media outlets solely as lobbyist instruments for personal gain, smear campaigns against their enemies and a shield against criminal prosecution for the shady deals through which they defrauded the Bulgarian population during the country’s transition to democracy, was to help their reputation abroad. To be more specific, the trio wanted to create for themselves an image as oppressed individuals who are supposedly being investigated by Bulgarian authorities not because they actually stole public assets but because they own publications.

Even though the indictments against them reveal a completely different picture and the doors to the gathering were literally slammed in the face of every journalist that was not specifically invited by the trio, Adès-Mével ate the bland soup she was served by the Capital circle and company. She turned a blind eye to the unprecedented violation of freedom of speech that took place right under her nose and arranged for the indicted publishers a whole series of RSF declarations and reports in their favour that clearly showed bias towards putting Prokopiev and the Capital circle media outlets in undeserved favourable light, while blasting the number one enemy of the aforementioned group – lawmaker and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski. The latter is viewed as an enemy because of his legislative initiatives, thanks to which he and his MRF colleagues in parliament stopped the secondary plundering of CorpBank and passed legislation ensuring complete transparency in the financing of media outlets in Bulgaria, including online media.

However, you will not find a word about this in the RSF reports, which have artificially been pushing down the country in the freedom of speech ranking for years based on surveys filled by no more than a dozen people, only three or four of which journalists (the rest NGO representatives) and all of which with ties to the Capital circle and its affiliated organisations. This is why you will see in these same reports all the talking points spread by Prokopiev and his associates that Adès-Mével repeated almost verbatim in her BNR interview despite those having been disproven hundreds of times.

Let us see what the otherwise publicly funded media allowed to sound on its air:

– Even though authorities in two countries, Bulgaria and Germany, have proven beyond reasonable doubt that the brutal murder of TV host Viktoria Marinova was not connected to her work and the fact that her murderer Severin Dimitrov has already been sentenced for the horrific crime, Adès-Mével called for a new investigation into the case. She did not bother to cite evidence that would be considered legal basis for such a move (hint – because there are none). This is the time to remind that last year the RSF helped the Cpaital circle and the website with strong connections to the Kremlin propaganda Bivol to use Viktoria’s death for a smear campaign against Bulgaria, to the shock of the entire public and the victim’s family.

– According to the organisation, there are good and bad oligarchs. Forget that “good oligarch” is an oxymoron for a second, who are these good ones? Prokopiev and company, of course. This is claimed despite the fact that he is a defendant in the EVN case (an affair that hurt pensioners in the country) and is being investigated for money laundering stemming from the criminal privatisation of the mining company Kaolin and undeclared concession fee revenues. In the RSF’s distortion mirror the publications of the Capital circle and their Bivol associates are reflected as paragons of investigative journalism. Those same publications spew fake news around the clock. And as for Bivol – the hacker Kristian Boykov, who is charged with committing a cyberattack by stealing the National Revenue Agency’s database – gathered information about the website from the illegally accessed NRA system. Moreover, the website’s owner Assen Yordanov was exposed in an American documentary as the main contact man for the fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev, who is on trial for embezzling billions of levs from CorpBank.

– Delyan Peevsky owns “a whole bunch of media outlets and not just several” as presented, while the country’s publications are concentrated “in the hands of one person”, if the RSF official is to be believed.

This is a beloved talking point in the aforementioned clique’s propaganda, which is repeated at nauseam by their media outlets every chance they get. It has just as often been disproven with information from all the public registers in the country as well as the sector analyses of the Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC). Both sources are public domain and even have versions in English. The information there clearly shows that Peevski has exactly six newspapers. On the other hand, the manipulations machine controlled by Prokopiev and company encompasses dozens of websites, some of them with anonymous owners and financing sources that would be illuminated when the Peevski-initiated amendments providing for full transparency come into effect. But the Frenchwoman with Soviet professional background prefers to ignore these facts and parrot the menu offered by the chef of the Capital circle. Her motivation remains a mystery at this time. However, Adès-Mével also chose not to recognise some of the most egregious instances of censorship in the modern history of Bulgaria, committed against the Telegraph Media publications at that – the decision of a Sofia City Court judge sentencing Monitor and Telegraph for reporting, backed with documents, the truth and the order issued by a Sofia District Prosecutor’s Office prosecutor for the Patent Office to erase the trademark of the best-selling daily newspaper in Bulgaria (Telegraph).

By the way, those two examples really illustrate that the media environment in the country is far from fine, but the reason for that is namely the people whose menu of talking points Adès-Mével is disseminating and their allies in the grant-funded Union of Bulgarian Journalists, led by the head of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov, who has turned the institution he oversees into an instrument wielded by the abovementioned oligarchs. These are all facts that can be proven with documents unlike the assertions made by Adès-Mével, but in the distortion mirror of the RSF official they do not exist because they do not suit the people who have absolutely no qualms about defaming the country just so they can avoid retribution for their crimes.

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