Bulgarian journalists unite against the practice in their country for politicians in power to take matters into their own hands and quarrel with public figures and others related to them through dirt and slander in yellow press.
More than one hundred Bulgarian journalists and leading media outlets called upon local politicians to cease legitimizing via financial stimuli yellow press that pours praise on those in power and harms all who criticize them. Over the years there have been hundreds of lawsuits filed and won by journalists and public figures against these media outlets.
Lawsuits are usually for invasion of privacy, portraying children and aggressive altercations. Often journalists and entire editorial offices that publish critical investigations against members of government, the governing majority in Parliament, prosecutors and judges are the subject of intense “scrutiny” from yellow press.
In the meantime, according to the Association of European Journalists, there is data on financial motivation from those in power towards a tabloid website that spreads slander and pornographic content. The funds were provided to the edition, alongside other similar ones, on various occasions, mostly related to elections. A fresh example is the European Parliament campaign in May 2019.
The formal reason for the reaction of dozens of publications and hundreds of journalists countrywide is the publishing of obscene images of unknown origin of an unknown woman, allegedly related to one of the Sofia mayoral candidates.
According to the most recent Reporters Without Borders ranking, Bulgaria is 111th in freedom of speech globally, the lowest position for an EU Member State.
The AEJ Bulgaria Declaration
AEJ announces the #NoPornJournalism initiative
The Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria firmly condemns the pornographic filth, published on the PIK website, and announces an initiative to restrict the funding of such “journalism”.
Although public figures have a lower level of private life protection, there are boundaries that should not be crossed and the material at hand is far beyond them. However, it concerns not only a political figure, but also a person allegedly related to them, which is not a public nor political figure, thus benefitting from the right to complete respect for private life.
In addition to seeking to humiliate and defame certain individuals, this act is dangerous to the entire society since the material, the authenticity of which is unchecked and dubious, has been published as dirt regarding the upcoming local elections, aiming to influence electoral attitudes.
In this case there is no public interest that could in any way possible justify publishing the images.
This is far from the first example of ethical and professional standards’ violation on behalf of the publication which enjoys the favour of politicians and representatives of the judiciary.
The Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria insists that the political subjects protecting PIK take responsibility. The PIK website has become a semiofficial organ, pouring dirt on all critics of the authorities. And this process is not unilateral. It is not true that the positive attitude of the website towards those in power is an expression of the free will of the website owners. There is data on financial motivation coming from those in power towards the website that spreads slander and pornographic content.
According to information about contracts with political parties, concluded during the European Parliament Elections, published on the website, four political parties – GERB, Ataka, IMRO and NFSB – are customers of PIK. At the time of concluding the contracts, all four are part of the governing coalition.
In the meantime, there is data that state and municipal institutions conclude service contracts with PIK via intermediaries.
AEJ-Bulgaria calls upon all institutions that have or have had a contract with the website to make this information public and to reconsider their agreements.
AEJ will begin to collect and publish data on which institutions direct taxpayers’ money towards such a website.
We call upon organizations and private companies to do the same. Reassure yourselves that no advertisement of yours is in any way present there as it would not be a good attestation for your customers to see your products near pornographic or defamatory content.
We call upon institutions, organizations, political parties and others to join the #NoPornJournalism Initiative by sending a message to email@example.com. By sending a message, the entities commit to not advertise in sites and other media that spread slander and dirt.
Rather than supporting pornographic journalism, we can help the undisputed professionals in the sector. For years, AEJ has been working with this aim – to create a community of journalists who believe in professional standards and to create an appropriate working environment for them.
Below is an example of the message you can send to firstname.lastname@example.org:
As a legal representative of ………., I commit that the organization I represent will not directly or via an intermediary advertise in media services providers that do not adhere to the Ethical Code of Bulgarian Journalists. I hereby authorize the AEJ team to notify me if they find an advertisement of the organization I represent in such media. I would like to have the name of the organization I represent added to the list of those joining the initiative in support of journalism in Bulgaria, abiding by professional and ethical standards