AEJ STATEMENT – AUGUST 21 2017
Association of European Journalists refutes “groundless smears” by Bulgarian MEP
The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) rejects the groundless allegations and a threat of legal action against AEJ-Bulgaria, the association’s Bulgarian section, made by Nikolay Barekov, a member of the European parliament. We demand that Mr Barekov should refrain from using gratuitously insulting language about AEJ-Bulgaria and withdraw his completely unfounded claim that AEJ-Bulgaria sought to serve the interests of his opponents, whom he called ‘thievish oligarchs’. Further details are on www.aej-bulgaria.org/eng/ .
Last week AEJ-Bulgaria called on the country’s prosecutors to exercise caution concerning public accusations of corrupt practices which Mr Barekov had made on Facebook against several prominent journalists working for the private Bulgarian TV stations Nova TV and bTV. Mr Barekov then lashed out again in a press release in which he accused AEJ-Bulgaria itself of being ‘scum’ and ‘paid urinals’ [sic] of his critics. He also threatened to sue AEJ-Bulgaria.
The AEJ believes that such crude, derogatory and unjustified language by an elected politician against a professional association of journalists is not acceptable.
AEJ-Bulgaria has frequently criticised corruption in public life and cases of paid-for and partisan journalism in the country. It said in a statement that any official investigation against journalists following claims made by ‘compromised politicians’ would set a bad precedent and amount to repression of the media; and that if necessary AEJ-Bulgaria would take legal action against Mr Barekov over his unwarranted statements. The Bulgarian authorities have stated that Nikolay Barekov has failed to file tax returns for certain years in the recent past. He faces an official demand for unpaid taxes, against which he has appealed.
Mr Barekov was a manager of the Bulgarian television channel TV7, which went bankrupt after its main sponsor, Tsvetan Vasilev, was charged with setting up an organised crime group which allegedly plundered assets from the Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) when it failed in 2014. Nikolay Barekov became a member of the European Parliament in 2014 and belongs to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
The AEJ www.aej.org is an independent network of professional journalists active in over 20 countries and it has Observer status at the Council of Europe’s Media Steering Committee. It was founded in 1961.
Otmar Lahodynsky, AEJ President
Tibor Macak, AEJ Secretary-General
William Horsley, AEJ Vice President and Media Freedom Representative