The report says growing collusion between publishers, oligarchs and political parties during the past decade has resulted in a major decline in the press freedom climate in this Balkans country, the current holder of the European Union presidency.
Presenting the report to NGOs, journalists and diplomats at an international conference in Sofia, the UPB voiced alarm about the threats to media pluralism and independence in Bulgaria.
“The pressure on independent media has been systematic for the past ten years,” UPB president Teodor Zahov said. “It is so sophisticated and lacking in transparency that some people don’t understand it and others don’t believe it.”
The report sheds light on the reasons for this decline, including the fact that the 2008 financial crisis led foreign investors in the Bulgarian media to sell their shares to Bulgarian companies thereby helping a small group of local oligarchs with political ties to emerge as the new masters of the country’s media.
The report highlights how ownership of the media and distribution networks is now concentrated in the hands of a few oligarchs, above all Delyan Peevski. It also highlights the lack transparency about media ownership, the misuse of state and EU funding, and a system of subsidies that favours pro-government media.
Ten years ago, Bulgaria was ranked 36th in RSF's World Press Freedom Index. It is now ranked 111th, the lowest position of any EU member country.