Respecting the business interests of media owners and silencing any information that may be interpreted as harmful is widely accepted by most Bulgarian reporters as a way of doing journalism, South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) said in its preview of a forthcoming report on Bulgarian media.
"Even independent media, valued for their intellectual content, and unrelated to [Bulgaria's two largest print media conglomerates], abstain from addressing those economic areas where their owners are active. For example, if an owner is in the oil business, one abstains from writing in-depth articles about energy," SEEMO said.
Whereas foreign media ownership is perceived as advantageous for media outlets and journalists, Bulgarian owners are perceived as investors with short-term vision who strive for immediate profits.
This extends past immediate business interests of the owners into the political sphere, SEEMO said, as journalists are dictated to how they can deal with specific issues or political figures.
The report quotes one editor recounting the experience of a recently-hired journalist asking whether a particular politician was to be written about in glowing or disparaging terms, as was the practice at the reporter's previous newspaper.
"This perception of media freedom and journalism implies that readers (and viewers) cannot rely on one specific media outlet to acquire information in the public interest. They are required to read different papers, watch different TV channels and switch between the only two radio stations (one private and one public) that produce news and programs, or opt for online media," SEEMO said.
Such "corporate journalism" undermined the credibility of the media and generated distrust among journalists. Because the owners of the largest two print media groups – Media Group Bulgaria Holding, which has bought the titles of German-based media group Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) in 2010, and New Bulgarian Media Group – could afford to cover losses thanks to revenue from their other business ventures, reporters were often forced to leave small quality publications for the better paid "corporate journalism" posts, according to SEEMO.
"These two media conglomerates fight for the market and for influence. According to some interlocutors, the country’s top political leadership had to intervene in order to stop their public war. When asked about the missions or ideology of the two media groups, interviewees responded unequivocally: 'There is no ideology. It is about business and personal interests'," the report said.
"Last but not least, SEEMO has observed that Bulgarian journalists fail to address certain topics related to diversity: gender and gender violence, homophobia, ethnic and religious minorities, to mention several. These issues are addressed occasionally, if there is a particular incident, generally negative, that triggers coverage. Bulgarian society and the political arena have not started debating these social topics, which top the EU's policy agenda in other countries," SEEMO said.
Vienna-based SEEMO is a regional non-governmental, non-profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, whose main goal is protecting media freedom in South East Europe. A SEEMO mission visited Bulgaria on April 1-4, meeting Bulgaria's Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and more than 25 editors, journalists, media experts and NGO representatives.
Killing spree in Norway in July 2011 and the arrests of individuals in a number of EU member states for the preparation of terrorist attacks, are proof of the continuing need for vigilance, Europol says.
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said the members of the IMF have made commitments to provide as much as $430 billion for loans to help members through economic difficulties.
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