Journalism for private consumption

It is high time for the Bulgarian desk of Free Europe to reveal whose voice it is - that of the public or of Ivo Prokopiev

Ivo Prokopiev

Promoting democratic values and institutions. Bringing honest and objective news to the people. Producing independent and neutral journalism. Those were the three pillars Radio Free Europe identified in its mission statement at the end of 2018 as it announced it was resuming its news service in Bulgaria in the form of an online outlet.

This is exactly the reason why the world-renowned Radio Free Europe, which played a crucial part in the transition to democracy that took place in Bulgaria in the late 1980s and early 1990s, gets millions of dollars from the US taxpayers - to promote democratic values. We truly believed that the resuming of its operations in Bulgaria would help with bringing back to normalcy the country's public discourse, which for years has been polluted with manipulations and fake news disguised as journalistic pieces. As it turned out, we were wrong. The radio may be as good as advertised elsewhere in the world, but its Bulgarian version is certainly not. The explanation is easy enough - if in the past Free Europe was associated with prominent Bulgarian dissidents such as Georgi Markov, nowadays the Bulgarian desk is almost entirely made up of people whose biographies are tied with none other than the man who has been working for decades to reduce journalism to constructing texts around talking points sent out from his email address. We are referring to the indicted “businessman” Ivo Prokopiev who is hiding behind the mask of a publisher.

And so, in almost a year of existence, this Bulgarian desk of Free Europe has proven one thing - you cannot have old liars run a democratic media outlet that is supposed to be promoting the truth. It was never going to work, even with millions in funding from the US Congress. That much was made obvious from the outset, as the new desk started out with an interview with Sasho Donchev - a man who has made tens of millions from monopolising natural gas deliveries thanks to backing from Russian oligarchs. And the latest evidence in support of our assertions just came out.

In an article headlined “Volley fire: Journalist targeted by Peevski media outlets while investigating his donations”, the Free Europe website attacks the members of the Telegraph Media group for alleged libel against “Stara Zagora journalist Venelina Popova”. The article points to a piece which appeared in both Telegraph and Monitor last week and which was prompted by reports from doctors from around the country that Popova was obstructing their work by inundating them with requests for access to public information with the sole purpose of finding out whether Delyan Peevski was making his donations to help medical workers in their fight against the novel coronavirus through a company he owns or as an individual.

It is not made clear what exactly Free Europe perceives as libel. Perhaps because everything we wrote in the piece is based on facts and evidence, as is the case with every piece of journalism published by the publications in our media group. There is also no mention of the qualification we were careful to make - that we, in Telegraph Media, will always protect the democratic right of every single person to ask questions as long as democracy is actually observed. And that does not include harassing people who are fighting day and night to preserve our lives and health. It also should be clear who is asking the questions and with what purpose. Venelina Popova signed those requests for information as an author working for an obscure website, conveniently forgetting to mention that she works for Dnevnik, which is published by Ivo Prokopiev. It is unlikely that she suffered a bout of amnesia.

The Bulgarian desk of Free Europe must have been aware that its article violated all sorts of democratic principles and values because the media outlet tried to create an illusion of objectivity by noting that “Telegraph Media is yet to respond to the questions sent to it by Free Europe”.

And where exactly did the fine ladies and gentlemen at Free Europe send those questions? Because they certainly did not reach out to any of the emails provided by our publications. One would think that those queries would have found their way to us even if they had been attached to the leg of a messenger pigeon. We have not received these questions because they were never sent. Our contacts - emails and phone numbers and all - are publicly available. All you had to do, esteemed colleagues at Free Europe, was search for them, but that does not work for you because it is far easier for you to lie. As do other organisations which have lent their operations in service of the man whose editorial offices produced the Bulgarian team of Free Europe in the first place. One example is Reporters Without Borders. The organisation may claim that its rankings are based on the opinions of journalists in Bulgaria, but it has not only never contacted anyone at Telegraph Media, it has also been carefully avoiding the dozens of attempts we have made to meet with its representatives as well as our invitations for them to visit us. Because Reporters Without Borders knows that our questions are real, unlike yours.    

It is high time that it became clear whose interests you, the so-called champions of democracy from the Bulgarian desk of Free Europe, are protecting - those of the public or of Ivo Prokopiev. Because for years now people in Bulgaria have been hoping to get rid of the manipulations bombarding the public consciousness and to see the individuals orchestrating them get punished. Your website does not feature a single objective article about the crimes Prokopiev is being tried for. Interesting, why is that?  


Looking forward to receiving your response (although it is doubtful one will come),

Lyuba Budakova, Telegraph Media

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