Prokopiev - the coronavirus of Bulgarian journalism

The boss of the Capital circle holds a monopoly over the media sphere through his people implanted in TV stations and internet publications

A coronavirus is haunting Bulgarian journalism. The coronavirus of Prokopiev's mainstream media machine. Just like Covid-19, it attacks underhandedly and relentlessly and spreads hotbeds of contagion. However, in contrast to the coronavirus, it has not been spreading for just several months, but for two decades now, in a bid to hit real journalism and put on artificial respiration the freedom of speech in Bulgaria.

This virus is tasked with monopolising the public space through manipulation of public opinion and exerting pressure over the state institutions through propaganda and fake news. And the ultimate goal is to save the mentor of this same mainstream media machine, the indicted oligarch Ivo Prokopiev, from the tightening noose of retribution and to help him evade punishment for his crimes. This applies equally to him and to the rest of the defendants and the indicted oligarchs.

The foundations of this manipulation manufacture were laid as early as in the late 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. It was funded with the money stolen from the state and the pockets of all of us in the course of the murky privatisation conducted by Ivan Kostov (the Commander) when he virtually gifted to his oligarchic spongers the lion's share of the Bulgarian economy - Kaolin, Sopharma, CorpBank, natural gas supplies, tourism, the pharmaceutical sector… There are dozens of examples proving it while the appropriated assets are worth hundreds of millions. The money Kostov served on a silver platter to his pet offspring, such as Razgrad boss Ivo Prokopiev, Lord of the Pills Ognyan Donev and natural gas tycoon Sasho Donchev have for years been used for sustaining media on an absolutely non-market principle in order to defend their own interests. Their interests, not the interests of the society. And now they are using these same media outlets, financed with our money, to put up resistance against the justice system. And, as this trio of oligarchic publishers are by far not the only ones whom the state will finally hold accountable for their deeds, the number of mainstream publications is changing constantly. It is directly proportional to the number of oligarchs facing charges for their crimes.

So, gradually other media outlets tied to other behind-the-scenes players, such as fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev, gambling tsar Vasil Bozhkov and another half a dozen “heroes of gangster labour” have joined the Fake News Factory. The result is that currently the mainstream media machine run by the behind-the-scenes clique has expanded and grown out into a monopoly controlling the media sector, which is producing a new crop of satellites every day. The latest example is a case in point - it concerns TV stations which are broadcasting nationwide and through satellite networks but whose quality is on the level of cable TVs, such as TV+ and TV1, which for several weeks now have been showing one and the same programme - the one hosted by the State Security agent Vesselin Dremdjiev who specialises in shooting down the enemies of the behind-the-scenes clique. Apropos, the number of those enemies is also changing. It is changing in accordance with the interests of the mainstream mentors, but nonetheless there are certain constants. Into this category fall all those who dared to demand retribution for Prokopiev & Co, no matter if these are the state institutions or opposition MPs - like, for instance, lawmaker and publisher of Telegraph Media Delyan Peevski, who became the sworn enemy of the behind-the-scenes clique owing to his legislative initiatives which hinder the shady affairs of the crime bosses, and to the editorial policy of his media group aimed at bringing to light their affairs.

How exactly does Prokopiev's mainstream media machine function?

As it is appropriate for every creator, the oligarch is also its godfather. In the shorthand records of ARGO-gate, Prokopiev himself called it “the mainstream” -media outlets under the direct control of the behind-the-scenes powers or such run by pawns tied to the oligarchy. In the shorthand records of two clandestine gatherings of the oligarchic brain trust, which consists of the representatives of grant-dependent NGOs posing as civil organisations, journalist on call and functional but failed politicians, the indicted “businessman” uses the English word for the main information stream to denote the media outlets and programmes which float his propaganda.

The engine of this gigantic machine for generating a parallel reality aimed at undermining the society are the media outlets directly linked to Prokopiev, Ognyan Donev and Sasho Donchev - Dnevnik, Capital, Club Z, Sega and Mediapool. The people working for them base their writings on the talking points dictated by their bosses, as it transpired from the leaked emails with “instructions” by Prokopiev, sent down to the managers of his media outlets. However, owing to the negligible interest the readers show in the abovementioned editions, they contribute to the mainstream not in terms of quantity but as staff numbers and tolling production operations. Thus, during the last decades, dozens of staffers have passed through their editorial offices, and through them Prokopiev infects journalism with his propaganda, planting them in media outlets allegedly independent from his “mainstream” - for instance, the Bulgarian desk of Free Europe, otherwise financed by the US Congress, and the Bulgarian desk of otherwise reputable radio Deutsche Welle. Or in the NGOs catering to his interests, such as the Association of European Journalists - Bulgaria, and the Anti-Corruption Fund, for instance. As regards the “tolling manufacture”, usually exactly these publications generate fake news at the dictation of the oligarchs, which are then disseminated by other media outlets, part of this mainstream media machine - namely, the publications tied to other indicted bosses and the so-called “periphery”.

In the first category fall Frognews, sponsored by fugitive banker Tsvetan Vassilev, and Bivol.bg, the site famous for its connections with the Kremlin. Several other publications supplement the group. Formally, they belong to other people, but in fact they are from the entourage of this same oligarchic circle, namely Aktualno and Fakti. The same applies to Terninal.no, run by PR agent of the protesters Ivet Dobromirova whose latest task was to service the indicted gambling tsar Vasil Bozhkov, as well as to Toest and Zaistinata.

The “periphery”, in its turn, comprises dozens of shell websites which exist only to spread fake news published by the abovementioned media, whose aim is to flood the internet space with the behind-the-scenes clique's propaganda.

However, the real strike force of the mainstream are not so much those editions as the pawns of Prokopiev and his henchmen through whom the behind-the-scenes clique has occupied the national broadcast network. The most blatant example is bTV which became famous as BozhkovTV owing to its tendentious decision to give the floor to the indicted gambling boss. Before it started to brazenly expose the viewers to Bozhkov's theses, the TV station or - to be more accurate - its newscasts and talk shows, did the same for Tsvetan Vassilev, and Ivo Prokopiev himself. However, bTV is by far not the only television that serves the interests of the behind-the-scenes clique. In a similar way, three other TV stations gave their airtime but on the principle of tolling manufacture - through concrete programmes whose hosts are either financed or directly linked to the indicted and accused oligarchs. Eurocom, which for years has been the playground of Lyuba Kulezich and of one of the favourite journalists on call of Tsvetan Vassilev and Vasil Bozhkov - Sasho Dikov, who is among the pioneers in this respect. However, for a certain time now, TV1 is working on the same principle. It gives shelter and pays sky-high salaries to several prominent protesters, and now TV+ has also followed suit. The first media is owned by the longtime partner of talk show host Slavi Trifonov, engineer Rumen Kovachev. The other is property of BG Sat, which is head over heels in debts.

Elementary calculations show that owing to all these bolts and nuts in its manipulation machine, and primarily through its pawns planted in bTV, Prokopiev & Co hold the monopoly over the public space.

Then why has this “mainstream” for years on end been spreading in the public space open lies claiming that lawmaker and publisher of Telegraph Media Delyan Peevski holds monopoly over the media and their distribution? Because they stick to the old principle of Goebbels - call your enemies “universal evil”, cast slurs on them intentionally, unendingly and steadfastly, blame them for rainy weather, and for draught, in order to cover up your own crimes. And, as far as the distribution is concerned, to justify the lack of readers' interest in the media owned by him and other oligarchs. This lack of interest is a fact established years ago and the reason for it is that the readers have long realised that the media outlets run by Prokopiev & Co only peddle manipulations and lobbyist texts, written at the dictation of their owners. Well, now this last talking point is history after the state has assumed the role of a guarantor for the normal functioning of the distribution market. With its decision, the Council of Ministers assigned to the Bulgarian Posts to take part in the distribution of print editions in the country in the next 10 years. Now the question is how those oligarchs will explain that there is “private monopoly” over the distribution of newspapers. Or, to be more precise, what new excuse will they find to explain the naked truth proving that no one wants to waste money on buying their editions and reading their fake news. And, while we are waiting for the next new manipulation that they will think up, we, the publications of Telegraph Media will not stop asking when will the state see about putting an end to the attempts of the behind-the-scenes clique at monopolising the public space through lies? Imposing the monopoly of propaganda right under the state's nose, of which we have been warning for years and will continue to raise alarm, including in Brussels. Because this propaganda contaminates not only journalism but the entire society, holding it in the captivity of fake news. And with the servient assistance of global organisations, at that - such as Reporters Without Borders which has become a private battering ram of Prokopiev and compiles rankings for our country based namely on the statements of some 10 people from this same “mainstream”. Prokopiev himself brandishes this battering ram every time when a state institution insists on meting out justice for his crimes and asks for retribution.

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