Spiegel and the oligarchy’s distorting mirrors

Have you seen one of those halls of carnival mirrors? The ones that show a grotesquely distorted reflection of your form – either too fat or too slim, but always unrealistic. The most popular attractions in those rooms are the mirrors that turn everything upside down. Your feet are firmly on the ground and yet the reflection shows them floating in the air.

This is a fitting description for the articles about Bulgaria that have been appearing at certain intervals in the otherwise respected German publication Spiegel (German for “mirror” – editor’s note) over the past decade. Reading them makes one doubt whether one has really lived for the last 10 years in the same country as the one portrayed in those texts.

A truly apocalyptic picture is painted – the country is described as steeped in corruption, the freedom of speech is supposedly crushed, and the citizens have it worse than the subjects of some African dictator. Constantly featured in those stories is lawmaker of the opposition party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski – it may be only one sentence sometimes, but he is invariably cast as the villain.

He is a thorn in the side of the indicted oligarchs in Bulgaria, who spare no expense when it comes to paying for campaigns aimed at ruining the reputation of the lawmaker. And of the country, for that matter, which “dares” to hold the protégés of the communist-era State Security and former right-wing PM Ivan Kostov accountable for their shady deals and frauds.

Of course, there is a perfectly sensible explanation for this distorted reflection of our country and it lies in the answer to the question, “Who is holding up the mirror and what kind it is?”

Simply browsing the internet shows that the latest such Spiegel article was authored by the freelancer Keno Verseck – born in the former GDR, he is a journalist strongly influenced by the ideas of short-term speculator with Hungarian descent George Soros. It was in Hungary that Verseck was called out by the local media and NGOs as one of the loyal people of the billionaire philanthropist and someone who was painting a negative image of the country that refused to pursue Soros’s policies. Verseck was supported in 2018 by the now infamous in Bulgaria Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The jigsaw puzzle is easy to solve from here – the organisation that is supposed to fight for the rights of journalists has been operating as a press office of indicted oligarchs like Tsvetan Vassilev, Ivo Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev for years.

The RSF has been retranslating the theses, be they defensive or offensive, spread by those shadowy figures, presenting them as the sole and incontrovertible truth. This has also been the approach adopted by the foreign freelancers involved in the scheme, who dutifully follow the instructions of their parent organisation and its “partners” in Bulgaria.

This is how the shameful rankings of Bulgaria in the RSF’s annual World Press Freedom Index are produced, as are the slandering articles about the county or individual figures standing in the way of the oligarchic interests of those ordering the media attacks. This is why Peevski’s name is lumped together, without facts or evidence, with those of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, the former and the new prosecutor generals – Sotir Tsatsarov and Ivan Geshev, respectively – or the former head of the Anti-Corruption Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture (ACCIAF) Plamen Georgiev. The method behind the attack is brilliantly simple – you are either with us or against us. This is why everyone who has dared to oppose the shady deals of oligarchs like Vassilev, Prokopiev, Donev and Donchev is painted with a broad brush as a behind-the-scenes clique trying to rob these individuals of their billions (money they actually stole from the Bulgarian citizens).

This is why Peevski’s name, without evidence and on a regular basis, is being tied to shady deals, in which the oligarchs themselves have been active participants. In reality, the MP is among the few who are striving to illuminate these deals through his media outlets and stop the plundering of public assets through his legislative initiatives. Our publications have dozens of examples to show for their investigative efforts – articles, entire newspaper supplements, and even books, which describe in detail and with proof the biggest highway robberies in Bulgaria and their perpetrators, including the fraud of the century – the CorpBank pyramid syphoned off by Tsvetan Vassilev.

But facts are of no significance to this oligarchic circle. These people lack morals or good memory. Just a couple of years ago, Prokopiev’s weekly newspaper Capital was blasting Tsvetan Vassilev for the CorpBank case and was the first media outlet in Bulgaria to start exposing the fraudulent machinations that had been committed in the bank. A few years and BGN 5bn stolen CorpBank money later, it is all water under the bridge and Prokopiev and his employees are among the most ardent defenders of Vassilev and the oligarch himself acts like one of the Bulgarian Madoff’s attorneys.

This is why it is no surprise that the latest carnival-mirror article produced by the oligarchy came from a freelancer with connections to Soros and was immediately picked up by bTV and media outlets owned by the indicted businessmen like Frognews and others. The private TV network itself has been captured from the inside by Prokopiev’s people for years. As the shorthand records of ARGO-gate revealed, he boasted during that secret meeting about “holding the mainstream” in Bulgaria. Thanks to loyal minions planted in the management of bTV like Venelin Petkov, the strings of the biggest private TV network in Bulgaria are being pulled by the oligarchs.

You will find none of this in Spiegel or in the “free media” of the indicted oligarchs. For you, they are holding up a distorted mirror, which shows their version of reality – in it, the truth is gagged and subjugated to their interests.

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