Sofia Echo


Siderov in shouting matches on Bulgarian breakfast television shows

Author: Clive Leviev-Sawyer Date: Thu, Sep 29 2011 1 Comment, 2437 Views
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Successive breakfast television appearances on September 29 by Volen Siderov, leader of ultra-nationalist party Ataka and a candidate in Bulgaria's October 23 presidential elections, descended into shouting matches as Siderov hit out at the country's media for an alleged long-standing campaign to defame him as a fascist.

In the opening moments of a 17-minute appearance on Bulgarian National Television's (BNT) Денят Започва (The Day Begins) show, hosted by Yevgeniya Marcheva, Siderov launched into a diatribe against the public broadcaster, accusing it of failing to cover properly the previous day's events in Parliament when, at Siderov's instance, acting Interior Minister Vesselin Vuchkov was called to address the National Assembly on the incident in Katounitsa.

The Katounitsa incident, in which a young man was killed when he was run over by the driver of a vehicle in the southern Bulgarian village, has led to street protests, public and political uproar because of widespread perceptions of an ethnic dimension - a dimension denied by Bulgaria's political mainstream but which has brought out on to the streets young people shouting slogans against the country's Roma population.

As Mircheva struggled to continue to ask questions of Siderov in the face of the Ataka leader's emotional monologue, Siderov insisted that he had paid 3600 leva (about 1800 euro) for his appearance and wanted to say his piece.

At the same time, taking up a theme well-worn for Ataka, Siderov vehemently criticised BNT for its daily afternoon news bulletins in Turkish.

He broadened his attacks to Bulgaria's mass media as a whole, saying that he had to pay the country's two largest commercial broadcasters, bTV and Nova Televisia, 15 000 leva each to appear on their talk shows.

"There is no free media in Bulgaria," Siderov said (using the Bulgarian word for "free" as in "freedom", not in the sense of free-of-charge).

Siderov said that for years, BNT, bTV, Nova and Bulgaria's most-read newspapers, dailies 24 Chassa and Trud, had "blackened me", calling him a fascist.

He harangued at length on what he termed the "Gypsification" of Bulgaria and drew contrasts to the riots in London, which he said involved black people, saying that he applauded the young people in Bulgaria who had turned out for the protests post-Katounitsa and said that this represented an "awakening" by the Bulgarian people.

In Bulgaria, Siderov said, police had beaten up and arrested people "just for wearing the Bulgarian flag".

As the struggle between Mircheva and Siderov for control of the airtime continued, with Mircheva repeating a number of times that BNT kept to the law in its coverage, Siderov shouted, "Will you listen to me or do I have to pay you another 3600 leva?"

Ranging off further elsewhere on his enemies list, Siderov railed against, among others, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee - which he said was among those who persecuted him - saying that such organisations "swallowed huge money" to promote the "Gypsification" of Bulgaria.

Against the Government in general and the Interior Ministry in particular, Siderov said, "I see no desire to do something against the Gypsification of the state".

When Mircheva put it to Siderov that she did not think it was in order for the leader of a party represented in Parliament and a presidential candidate to depict all of Bulgaria's Roma people as criminals, Siderov responded that gypsies, as he termed them, refused to integrate or to send their children to school instead of selling them or turning them into prostitutes and pickpockets.

Siderov poured scorn on the notion that people in Bulgaria's Roma neighbourhoods were poor, saying that the housing was lined with satellite dishes, with "limousines" parked outside.

In a reference to Bulgaria's constitution, which requires the head of state to be "president for all Bulgarians," Mircheva asked Siderov whether, were he to be elected president, he would be president of Roma people too, he said that he would be president of all those who obeyed the law.

Asked what he would say to Roma people who were now too scared to go work because of recent incidents of public hate speech and actual and attempted assaults on Roma, Siderov dismissed this as "speculation" and "theatre".

He said that amendments to the Penal Code were necessary so that people could defend their homes, "because thousands of Bulgarians have been killed, raped and robbed in their own homes in the villages by gypsy gangs".

Later, an appearance by Siderov on bTV also resulted in uproar.

BTV's breakfast show, hosted by Ani Tsolova and Viktor Nikolaev, was hosting a number of politicians from various parties to discuss the events after Katounitsa. They said that Ataka had been invited to participate but no representative had arrived.

Soon afterwards, Siderov  burst into the studio, commencing a hostile monologue against bTV. At this point, the other guests quit the studio.

Among other things, he labelled bTV a "shameful chalga television" (chalga being a form of pop-folk music strongly influenced by Turkish and other Balkan musical forms) and said that he would ask for an audit of BTV, saying that it was paying "a ridiculously low rent" for the offices it occupies in the National Palace of Culture, NDK, a state-owned building in central Sofia.

Towards the end of Siderov's appearance, he stood close to the desk of the two presenters, with all three speaking simultaneously.

Siderov's September 29 episodes were hardly his first clashes with the mass media. Previous episodes have involved an attempt to invade the studio of BNT Friday political talk show Panorama, and on another occasion, some years ago, Siderov - backed by a phalanx of supporters - forced his way into the offices of a newspaper at whose coverage he had taken umbrage.

In turn, Siderov was targeted on September 29 by one of his bete noire, Iliya Iliev, leader of Roma party Drom. Appearing on the breakfast show of Nova (which was an oasis of calm by contrast, this particular morning), Iliev called for Siderov to be arrested and his statutory immunity from prosecution removed. Iliev alleged that Siderov was paying for the incitement of large groups to turn out in protest, in the hope that this would bring down the Government and force early elections.

Ahead of the Katounitsa incident, Siderov's showing in pre-election opinion polls showed him as having nothing more than the most miniscule chance of making it beyond the first round of voting among 18 presidential candidates on October 23.

He placed second in the second round of Bulgaria's 2006 presidential elections, being soundly defeated by Georgi Purvanov. In the July 2009 national parliamentary elections, Ataka got just less than 10 per cent of the votes, winning 21 seats in Bulgaria's 240-seat unicameral Parliament.

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    • Profile preview
      europeanr Rating: 8
      #1 14, 31, Thu, Sep 29 2011

      Indeed, he's not a Fascist. Fascism is at least is a system of ideas about the construction and functioning of the state - one could say there is system in the madness. And at least Italian Fascism was not racist. Siderov is just a chaotic hatemonger, like Wilders and Tudor (in Rumania).

      And paying to be on a talkshow? Verily, in Bulgaria everything is for sale.

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