Reporters without Borders in the oligarchy’s looking glass world

The organisation released report on Bulgaria full of fakes

Pauline Ades-Mevel

On 18 April, Reporters without Borders (RSF), an organisation based in France, released its 2018 World Press Freedom Index where Bulgaria for the next year in a row ranks 111th out a total of 179 positions in the ranking. This ranking, however, for years has been criticised for obscure points of reference for countries‘selection and superficial propaganda used for the purpose. 

In full synchrony with this criticism Bulgaria’s index once again has been calculated as if inside the looking glass world of the country’s oligarchy and now literally serves the interests of the indicted backstage power brokers who use their boutique editions as a shield from the probes into their crimes. So the matters stand with the cases of Ivo Prokopiev and Ognyan Donev indicted for tax evasion worth millions and even the ex-banker Tsvetan Vassiled who fled to Serbia. The latter officially is not a publisher but he finances several media outlets which he uses as his private press offices. Such cases of intolerable and nefarious distortion of the media environment in Bulgaria by the oligarchs is not only referred to in the report of the RSF but on top of that the report quotes the claim that indicted Prokopiev and his media outlets were subject to repressions.

There are two other open lies in the report: about the murder of TV anchor Victoria Marinova and about the MP of the opposition party Movement for Rights and Freedoms and publisher of Telegraph Media Delyan Peevski. Apparently the sources of these two “pieces of news” are the same –, the site closely connected with the Kremlin propaganda machine, and the media outlets of the indicted oligarchs, Prokopiev, Donev and Vassilev.

Peevski is a longtime foe of the behind-the-scenes circles in Bulgaria and media attacks against him clearly show what the reason is. These attacks result from Peevski’s legislative initiatives aimed at bringing to light the financial ailments of the Bulgarian media and forestalling further criminal scheming by the oligarchy. In response, Peevski has become a target of incessant attacks both in Bulgaria and abroad launched by these same circles which use every opportunity to create a media image of a behind-the-scenes monster without having a single fact to evidence that.

It is noteworthy that once again the RSF is using incorrect data obviously sent down by their counteragents in Bulgaria, namely the media outlets of the oligarchy. After the previous report quoted an open lie that “Peevski controls about 80% of the printed media in Bulgaria”, this time they claim that he “laid hands on the greater part of printed media distribution in Bulgaria.” Which again is a lie because Peevski does not have any share in media distribution. Actually, the primary source of this disinformation, according to which Peevski has something in common with the printed media distribution, proved to be Economedia sustained by Ivo Prokopiev. About a year ago, the team of Monitor revealed that the co-publisher of Economedia Theodor Zakhov gave instructions over phone to France Press correspondent in Sofia as to how to turn the corner after the circulated lie about printed media distribution in this material. The bosses insisted that evidence should be provided.

Another absurd point in the 2018 report is that Peevski (according to RSF) owns two newspapers, Telegraph and Monitor, as well as TV channel Kanal 3 and news sites. How they arrived at such a conclusion remains an enigma but it is clear that they cannot operate either with figures or with the official Bulgarian trade registers. If they took the trouble to check out this information they would have seen that Peevski is a publisher of only six printed media and two websites and has no stakes in any other media, including a TV channel. 

Another ugly insinuation in the report is the gruesome murder of TV anchor Victoria Marinova which used in an ugly attempt at self-PR trying to pose as “investigative journalists” who are being threatened because of their work. Despite the fact that the investigative officers in Bulgaria and Germany proved with reasons that Marinova was murdered not because of her professional activity, are still trying to lug this wonton domestic crime to their record of repressed journalists. One of the obvious results is the fact that the RSF for the third time running makes a U-turn in their assessment of the case. Initially they announced that they will enter Marinova on the list of journalists who fell victim to their profession. After it was evidenced that the TV anchor fell victim to a brutal domestic murder which has nothing to do with her profession they deleted the remark that a journalist was killed in Bulgaria because of profession.

However, the report again quotes this case as an example of violence against a media rep.

Against this backdrop, there is hardly someone surprised that in a brief passage about Bulgaria, which is indexed somewhere between Mali and Ethiopia as regards freedom of speech it is said that Prokopiev and his Economedia were an example of “judicial harassment” over the independent publisher and his media.

This claim could hold true only in the looking glass world of the oligarchy where RSF obviously belong. And the whole outcry results from the fact that via his newspapers Peevski as publisher brings to light all the Mafiosi in Bulgaria. The low 111th place in the ranking is due to the oligarchs and in particular to Ivo Prokopiev who controls the mainstream, as he himself admitted according to the verbatim records of the Argogate. If we add to that the flagship of the Fake News Factory, Capital and Dnevnik, as well as the sites generously sponsored by the oligarch, we get a picture of a monstrous disinformation machine which steadily but surely erodes the image of Bulgaria. Against this backdrop Telegraph and Monitor percentagewise are not so important but they have immense public influence thanks to the fact that they unveil truth about the plunders of the oligarchy and always furnish facts and documents to prove it.




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