FinancialGuy Writes!

That is the title of this cable released yesterday by Wikileaks.

The cable, from June 2009, marked ‘Confidential’, is scathing about the Bulgarian press.

Taken from the Summary, “Bulgarian media is highly manipulated and
increasingly concentrated in fewer hands. Reporters and editors accept bribes to cover stories, to print propaganda articles as though they were news, and to not print information that sponsors do not approve.

Taken from point 5. (C) is this, “Privately, journalists say that political parties pay reporters, editors, and TV producers for interviews and news coverage, which appears without any financial disclosure. Political parties also openly sponsor papers, such as Duma (Socialists) and Ataka newspaper and TV Skat sponsored by the nationalist party Ataka, which are easily identifiable.

If you work in the media, or the EU media, this will be a depressingly familiar read. To me, it seems as though Bulgaria is doing it’s best to get used to the workings of the EU…

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  1. Nothing new is said here. Who pays, he ordered the music! This is a principle which is not invented in Bulgaria, and applies to all countries around the world.

  2. I have no doubt that this does happen everywhere to a greater or lesser extent.

    In finance there is a saying which seems to fit well here, “He who has the gold makes the rules”.

  3. Dear friends,

    Here is what has been published about press freedom:
    Le nouvel observateur wrote:
    L’Europe a perdu son “statut d’exemplarité”
    Sur les vingt-sept pays membres de l’UE, treize se trouvent dans les vingt premiers. Quatorze pays sont sous la vingtième place et certains se retrouvent très bas dans le classement : Grèce (70e), Bulgarie (70e), Roumanie (52e), Italie (49e) et la France (44e derrière le Surinam)
    Kind regards
    Anna

  4. Dear financialguy,

    As a journalist with a long experience in Bulgaria, I can confirm the following:
    – media standards in Bulgaria are on the decline, the situation having deteriorated since the country’s EU accession;
    – there is a wide-spread understanding that newspapers cannot be profitable. On this basis, it is assumed that if they make a loss, somebody is footing the bill. This can be a political party (for the party newspapers that’s fine), but it’s unfair for newspapers which pretend to be independent;
    – several newspapers are now owned by a single physical person, Irena Krusteva the real owner being a bank, Corporate Commercial bank. This bank has the monopoly of the state accounting (strange maybe) and pays lip service to the government (less strange perhaps);
    – when the new owner arrives, journalists who were used to criticise the government are asked to write in support of the government of Boyko Borissov, and also to sign their articles;
    – major TV stations who in principle had committed to offer a public service, also pay lip service to the government. many political talk-shows are transformed into entertainment programs. As an example, instead of politicians, those invited for the talks shows are folk singers, sportsmen etc.;
    – journalistic standards as a whole are low. Little background is provided, the side under attack is not invited to respond, statements are thwarted to suit the media owner interest;
    – I think I can go on like this for hours. To make a long story short, I am now a journalist in Brussels because I considered that I had no future in this field in my own country.
    Kind regards,
    Georgi

  5. Thanks Georgi. I was rather hoping when I posted that to get one (or more) of the better known EU affairs journalists to comment. I’m sure that the cable would not have had such a title if it were all completely untrue, but at the same time, some independent validation (or not) is always helpful.

    Thanks again.

  6. Thanks financialguy,
    By the way, the US cables published by Wikileaks contain many mistakes, or sometimes they are outdated (for the time they have been written). For example Skat TV is not sponsored by Ataka, it used to be several years ago.
    US diplomats should have better sources, they sometimes sound ridiculous ; )
    Georgi

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