The Bulgarian Financial Supervision Commission (FSC), is turning into a scourge of legitimate journalistic freedom of expression. A record high fine of 160,000 leva (81,600 euros) has been imposed on the “Economedia” group for publications which the regulator has labelled as market manipulations. The group was also penalized for refusing to disclose its sources of information. Such an attack on the basic functions of the free media is threatening to destroy the very last instruments for journalistic investigation into corrupt practices and abuses in Bulgaria’s financial world. Combined, those two things amount to unprecedented administrative censorship.
At the end of 2014 the FSC also demanded that two other media – “Mediapool” and “Bivol” — should disclose their sources of information for publishing reports about irregularities in the Bulgarian financial system.
AEJ-Bulgaria denounces the action as a blatant violation of media freedom, and is deeply disturbed by the tendency for state financial regulators to set up barriers for reporting on the country’s banking system. Such repressive measures by a public authority are in a violation of Articles 39, 40 and 41 of the Bulgarian Constitution, as well as Article 10 of the European Convention for Human Rights and Article 11 of the European Union’ Charter for Fundamental Rights, which set out the principle of the right to freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights plainly states that “[…] the role of investigative journalists is precisely to inform and alert the public, particularly of bad news, as soon as the information came into their possession […]”(Martin and Others v. France ).
The FSC is not authorized either to interpret or to seek to enforce the Ethical Code of the Bulgarian Media. Nor, in our view, may it lawfully oblige media to disclose the identity of their confidential sources of information. To do so would mean the end of investigative journalistic work and would inevitably deprive citizens from their right to receive information that is plainly in the public interest.
AEJ – Bulgaria stands firmly for the right of journalists to inform the society and for their right not to disclose their confidential sources, who may easily be exposed to a serious risk to their physical safety and integrity if their identity is known. We wish to alert our international partners and all those who are concerned with protecting press freedom to this serious violation of the freedom of speech by representatives of Bulgaria’s state authorities.