Monopoly over truth or the oligarchs’ distorting mirror

When you try to smear your enemies in a report you face the risk of portraying yourself

Tsvetan Vassilev, Ivo Prokopiev, Sasho Donchev and Ognyan Donev

One of the treasured dreams of any behind-the-scenes player is to create a monopoly over the truth. If we think of journalism as a lantern which throws light on the shady affairs and shows the naked truth about them then the ultimate goal of murky players is to hold fast of the lantern to avoid the possibility that light will be thrown on their own crimes.

This maxim has been preached by the Bulgarian oligarchs throughout the so-called transition period in the country. The people who made fortune thanks to the mafia-style privatisation are dreaming that a day will come when no one will ask them about their first million and the human lives they have warped on their way. That is why they conveniently disguise themselves as “independent publishers” whose media outlets turn journalism into a sniper rifle for shooting down the enemies of their bosses instead of using it as a lantern. You know well all of them: Ivo Prokopiev, Tsvetan Vassilev, Ognyan Donev and dozens of their media offspring who crush the inconvenient like a well-greased machine.
Their arsenal is big – from the articles full of lies to pushing through their false stories via various reports of the European organisations. Apparently on the Old Continent they tend to rise to the bait of the oligarchs and service their interests because on a regular basis there appear reports smearing the oligarchs’ foes. Or present the oligarchs as victims of repressions. Sometimes this service comes as “2-in-1” and often produces a tragicomic result. Just as it happened with a sponsored article in a foreign publication which pictured Ivo Prokopiev as a “good oligarch”. 
The latest example of such media flop is the report based on the talking points of the traditional “partners” of the oligarchs in Bulgaria – the Reporters without Borders (read more about it here and here) and the Global Press Institute based in Vienna. This two-page report is an expatiation about Bulgaria and the media environment in our country which is not grounded in any facts or evidence. Such as, for instance, the allegation that one politician controls the print media distribution market in Bulgaria. It was reported just like that, without evidence or quoting names. A word got around in Brussels and out of the blue all kinds of NGOs started to write on a napkin reports based on supposed truths.
And since staring from March the state-owned company Bulgarian Post has taken on the task of print media distribution in Bulgaria which was previously carried out by several dozens of companies we would like to ask who this politician is and why you don’t show courage and quote his name? There’s no need for the media under the oligarchs’ control to fumble for an answer – to us it is clear. There is no name because there is no evidence. And they hope that only hints and allusions would suffice to make their manipulation veritable. Because if you quote a name you will have to furnish proofs. And how could you do it if public registers abound in facts that refute your lies? That is why the oligarchs and their media stick to the Stalin’s maxim – no man, no problem - and guiltily hush it up that actually there are no facts either. A real masterpiece of oligarchic propaganda!
Further on the text becomes even more heart-rending, it says that “media property (in Bulgaria – ed.’s note) is not transparent and is characterised by the seizure of media market by oligarchs who use their media power for exerting political influence and attacking and smearing their adversaries and critics.” Those who read it will at once come to think of the media run by Prokopiev, Vassilev and Donev and an assemblage of pen-pushers around them. These media outlets are property of the oligarchs indicted for their shady affairs with the money of the citizens and the state while their bosses are using them to exert influence on the political and economic life in Bulgaria. Just remember what PM Boyko Borissov said about Ivo Prokopiev’s attempt to plant several ministers in his first cabinet. There’s hardly any brighter example of oligarchic and media pressure over the government. Besides, the oligarchic media reacted in hot haste when lawmaker Delyan Peevski and several of his colleagues from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms moved a draft bill aimed at bringing to light the financing and ownership of media in Bulgaria. And when this year they published their tax statements it became clear that they have a lot to hide – millions-worth grants which are used for sustaining their bankrupt media outlets.  
And now comes the final part of the description – “smear their adversaries and critics.” It fits the oligarchic media like a glove. They for years now have been functioning as press centres for their publishers and “shoot down” their enemies whenever ordered.
Their invariable target is lawmaker of the opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms and publisher of Telegraph Media Delyan Peevski and his media outlets. The reason is prosaic – the MP for years has been bringing to light the affairs of the indicted bosses through his legislative initiatives while the publications of Telegraph Media have released hundreds of journalistic inquiries concerning the machinations of oligarchs, such as Prokopiev, Donev and Donchev and other behind-the-scenes players.
All this drives the oligarchs mad. That is why they commission smearing reports abroad. But when you try to smear your enemy in this way you face the risk of portraying yourself. Just as it happened now.



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