Minister Banov prohibits Peevski from registering his newspaper

Ministry of Culture declines to acknowledge Match Telegraph after a statement by the publisher mysteriously disappears from the agency’s public register

Boil Banov

Minister of Culture Boil Banov essentially prohibited Delyan Peevski from complying with the amendments to the Mandatory Deposition of Print and Other Materials Act introduced by the MRF lawmaker himself. Peevski’s motion to register the renamed sports outlet in his media group – now called Match Telegraph was rejected.

The absurd situation came about after Vestnik Telegraph EOOD – a company solely owned by Peevski and which took over on 27 July the publishing operations of the outlets comprising Telegraph Media, filed a motion with the ministry. The document attested to the fact that starting 7 September, besides a publisher of Telegraph, Monitor, Politika and Europost, Vestnik Telegraph EOOD is now a publisher of Match Telegraph, which is the new name of one of the most successful daily sports newspapers in the country, Meridian Match. Even though the filing was done in keeping with all requirements, the ministry unlawfully denied the motion. The denial itself is full of inaccuracies, among the most glaring of which is the fact that it addressed the former publisher of the outlets, Telegraph Media, instead of the current one, Vestnik Telegraph. This mistake is more than absurd considering the fact that the change in the publishing company was announced back at the end of July – once again to the Ministry of Culture and within the timeframe provided by the law. At the same time it shows a chronic problem as this is the latest incident in just the past few days of undermining our publisher’s and our media outlets’ efforts to obey the law.

On 4 September it emerged that the public register with the Ministry of Culture is mysteriously missing a statement filed on 29 June, with which the former publisher, Telegraph Media, observes the legal requirements to disclose its real owner and funding for 2019. The document, of whose filing we have proof, explicitly states that the only public resources received by Telegraph and Monitor came under the form of a BGN 15,000 contract signed with Sport Factors. The same circumstance was described in the statement Telegraph Media filed with the Commercial Register. However, that did not stop Ivo Prokopiev’s machine for manipulations from concocting its latest libel against Delyan Peevski, the main enemy of the oligarch and the entire behind-the-scenes clique in the country. The mysterious disappearance of the document from the ministry’s public register provided the website Dnevnik with the ammunition to legalise the lie that the lawmaker is trying to “skirt” the changes he helped introduce and “hide” Telegraph and Monitor revenues.

This allegation is ridiculous, but it does raise the question of a potential mole in the Ministry of Culture helping the malicious attacks launched by the Capital circle and its affiliated outlets against this piece of legislation. It is even possible that the mole is Boil Banov himself. The attacks started from the moment the amendments were put on the parliamentary floor and continued well after the bill was approved. And the reason for them is more than clear – the legislation is being sabotaged because it sheds light on the behind-the-scenes connections and non-market mechanisms being used to finance the outlets in Prokopiev’s so-called mainstream. They have also shown that, unlike us, Prokopiev’s outlets rely mostly on public resources. For example, in 2019 they received hundreds of thousands in grants and under contracts with ministries and state-owned companies – from the America for Bulgaria Foundation (BGN 500,000), the European Commission (BGN 202,744) and the European Parliament (BGN 153,881). In addition these outlets struck deals with the European Commission (for BGN 701,063), the European Parliament (BGN 192,035), political parties, including the ruling GERB (BGN 105,278) and Democratic Bulgaria (BGN 5,100), as well as dozens of advertisement contracts with state companies and bodies, including the Ministry of Finance, Kozloduy NPP, LB Bulgaricum, the Bulgarian National Radio, the Bulgarian National Television, Kintex, the Financial Supervision Commission, the Fund Manager of Financial Instruments in Bulgaria, Borica AD, the Bulgarian National Bank, etc.

As early as 4 September, we sent Minister Boil Banov questions, asking why the statement of Telegraph Media is not in the public register and what happened to it. The minister is yet to respond. We are also left wondering about the latest attempt to sabotage our steps to meet legal requirements. But we will continue to ask the right questions because this case is about more than undermining the law, it is about undermining the truth.

Even in the absence of answers from the ministry, the purposeful refusal of Banov and his people to allow us to comply with the law reveals several things.

First, the Ministry of Culture is intentionally sabotaging the amendments originally proposed by Delyan Peevski, approved by the National Assembly and aimed at introducing transparency to the finances of newspapers and online media in the country and their real owners so that it is clear who speaks through the various publications. The legislation’s idea is to counteract the avalanche of fake news and propaganda inundating the Bulgarian public.

Second, Banov is the latest minister in PM Boyko Borissov’s cabinet who is serving, knowingly or not, the interests of the indicted oligarchs Ivo Prokopiev.

Third, what happened was the latest nail in the coffin of the manipulations that have been spread for years by the Capital circle’s libel machine – about some imaginary ties between Peevski and Borissov’s cabinets. There have never been such ties. Prokopiev has been disseminating those lies through the mainstream media machine he controls in order to conceal the fact that he is the real master of the country and the one pulling the government’s strings behind the scenes. He has been in the Bulgarian political establishment for more than a decade through puppets planted as ministers in the cabinets of Boyko Borissov. While the media outlets published by him and the rest if the indicted oligarchs exist solely on the strength of public resources, Peevski’s outlets are subjected to serious censorship attempts and sabotages – from the government, in the form of Boil Banov, and the judicial system, in the form of the Prosecutor’s Office, a representative of which ordered the Patent Office more than a year ago to erase the trademark of the best-selling newspaper in Bulgaria – Telegraph.

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