Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Bulgaria’s state-owned national radio broadcaster to reinstate Lili Marinkova, a leading journalist who was wrongfully dismissed without warning last month, and condemns the harassment of journalists by the country’s politicians.
RSF reiterates its support for Marinkova, one of Bulgaria National Radio’s most famous and outspoken journalists. Last month RSF signed a petition launched by other well-known journalists, who called for her reinstatement because they regarded her dismissal as politically-motivated.
A formal request for her reinstatement has been submitted to the national radio broadcaster’s board of governors, which is due to take a decision in the next few days.
The radio broadcaster’s management said Marinkova, 62, was let go because she had reached retirement age. But her dismissal coincided with Alexander Velev’s appointment by the Electronic Media Council, a regulatory body, as the broadcaster’s new boss.
It is clear that Marinkova, who never minces her words or handles politicians with kid gloves, was deliberately taken off the airwaves ahead of upcoming elections. In one of her last broadcasts, she talked about the origins of Delyan Peevski, a legislator, leading cigaratte manufacturer and media tycoon who is described in RSF’s new report about oligarchs (read the report).
“We cannot tolerate such an obvious act of censorship,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “Marinkova’s departure was not prompted by any fall in her programme’s ratings or any other objective criteria. This was a blatant act of censorship and must be redressed by the radio broadcaster’s management without delay.”
At the start of this month, culture minister Vezhdi Rashidov tried to intimidate a journalist. After state TV presenter Georgi Angelov interviewed a sculptor critical of the minister, Rashidov said Angelov should be “less ironical about the government” and should “remember who pays his salary.”
The Association of European Journalists reacted immediately, accusing the minister of pressuring and blackmailing Angelov. A demonstration was held in Sofia on 7 July to demand the departure of Rashidov, who finally issued an apology.
Atanas Chobanos, one of the joint editors of the Bulgarian news website Bivol.bg, commented: “Marinkova’s dismissal and the ‘Sunday 150’ programme’s removal, and the culture minister’s attack on a state TV journalist are symptoms of the political authorities’ same illness, which has resulted in Bulgaria being ranked last in media freedom in the European Union.”
Bulgaria is ranked 113th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.