AEJ-Bulgaria and a group of Bulgarian journalists demanded from the Vice-President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes her support for sending an expert fact-finding mission for investigation of the threat of monopolization of the Bulgarian media market.
Representatives of the Bulgarian section of AEJ also suggested that the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, which the EU applies on Bulgaria (and Romania) in regards to the judicial system and fight against corruption, should be extended on the situation with media freedom as well. Commissioner Kroes met Bulgarian publishers and journalists as a part of her official visit in Bulgaria, after she officially declared Media freedom in Bulgaria as her personal concern at a public hearing the the EP in the beginning of June.
According to AEJ-Bulgaria, there are serious concerns that attempts for monopolization of the Bulgarian media, especially in regards to the press, are being made by a big corporate group with favourable attitude to the state authorities. The same problems apply for the distribution market, which puts the other media in a non-privileged position. Therefore, the freedom of expression as well as the competition rules of the EU are being endangered.
Another problem, presented by the group of Bulgarian journalists who signed an open letter to Commissioner Kroes, is the dissemination of European funds for media campaigns in Bulgaria in a corrupt and non-transparent ways. We have fears that the usage of public money for communication campaigns in the press and broadcasting channels without public procurement procedures in a situation of contracted advertising market, leads to providing media comfort for the state authorities and puts in question the independence of the media.
„In order for guaranteeing the supremacy of the law and democratic principles in Bulgaria, we insist that the media, as a major actor in democratic processes in the country, should be incorporated in the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism of the EC”, stressed the President of AEJ-Bulgaria Ms Kristina Hristova.
In response to the concerns, expressed by Bulgarian publishers and journalists, Commissioner Kroes proposed that further concrete proposals for guaranteeing the transparency of media ownership and the freedom of speech must be made by the different stakeholders. “If you have chosen to be a democrat, then you must accept the other opinions”, Ms Kroes told the participants in the meeting and insisted that the media should not pretend that the serious problems in Bulgaria do not exist.