Two investigative journalists detained while investigating fraud
Bulgarian journalist Dimitar Stoyanov, #ECPMF Journalist-in-Residence, and Romanian journalist Atilla Biro, both #IJ4EU grantees, were arrested Thursday eve near Radomir, Bulgaria, while investigating #EU funds fraud. Released this morning. MORE SOON #bivol #riseproject— ECPMF (@ECPMF) September 14, 2018
On 4th July 2018, Parliament passed amendments to the Law for the Compulsory Depositing of Print Media. Aiming to "make the funding of media organisations more transparent", the bill passed on first reading. The amendment was first proposed in February 2018 by MP Deylan Peevski, a politician and media owner who controls almost 80 percent of Bulgarian print media. The legislative proposal obliges media outlets to disclose any funding they receive, including grants, donations, and any other type of foreign funding. Those who receive funding from for example, bank loans, won't be subject to this funding declaration. Peevski-owned media funding comes primarily from bank loans. Atanas Tchobanov, co-founder of investigative website Bivol said:
“The bill is exposing mainly the small media outlets, living on grants and donations. If a businessman gives [Bivol] €240 per year with a €20 month recurrent donation and we disclose his name, his business might be attacked by the Peevski’s controlled tax office and prosecution."
In separate developments, on July 2018, it was reported that two newspapers (Telegraph and Monitor) owned by MP Delyan Peevski called on the private TV channel bTV to dismiss Svetoslav Ivanov, the presenter of the current affairs show "120 minutes". The move came after the presenter, Ivanov, asked a guest on his show a question about Peevski's business interests.
In another incident related to freedom of expression, on 14th September 2018, Attila Biro from investigative journalism site Rise Romania and Dimitar Stoyanov from investigative website Bivol.bg were arrested in Pernik, near the capital Sofia. The two journalists were researching a story on fraud involving EU funds. Biro and Stoyanov were released a few hours later.
RSF denounces Bulgarian oligarch #DelyanPeevski 's calls for hatred who asks the private TV channel BTV @btv_official to "clean" its network of his journalist Svetoslav Ivanov who simply asked the right questions about a financial operation of the oligarch.— RSF_Europe (@RSF_Europe) July 24, 2018
On 16th September 2018, hundreds of people, supported by the Bulgarian diaspora participated in a protest in Sofia, demanding the resignation of the government and denouncing the increased cost of living. A heavy police presence was reported as days before there were fears that the protest could end in clashes. Although no major incidents occurred, a Bulgarian cameraman was assaulted during the event. Demonstrations against the current leadership also took place simultaneously in front of the Bulgarian embassies in several other cities.
Bulgaria's commercial register and the NGOs’ register stopped working for a few days in August 2018 due to technical problems. The National Justice Ministry alerted the institutions responsible for national security issues about the problem namely, the prosecution service, the State Agency for National Security and the Interior Ministry. According to the Bulgarian authorities, the problem was not caused by "cyber-attacks or malicious external interference". Even if the overall damage was not significant, the Bulgarian authorities believe that additional technical security measures are needed. The deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev explained immediately after the incident that this glitch has shown how fragile and vulnerable the system is and that a proposal would be made to improve the security of the database.