Refugees and Roma targets of harmful language in Bulgarian media

Expression

In May, the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria published an analysis of the domestic media's portrayal of Roma and refugees. The author analysed media content from the five most widely-read online news sources during Bulgaria's parliamentary election period - 24th February to 24th March 2017. 

The monitoring results and analysis showed that both Roma and refugees are overwhelmingly referred to in the media using language with negative connotations. The report notes that Bulgarian media have "a chronic tendency to dehumanize Roma people, who are usually the first to be blamed for most public woes”. Bulgaria currently has the second largest population of Roma in the European Union. 

The study's author, Theodor Spassov, also found that as the refugee crisis has intensified and the numbers of asylum seekers increased, the Bulgarian media have found another group to blame as a "representation of the enemy, namely the refugee”. The influx of refugees since 2013 has increased debate over the country's policy towards asylum seekers and immigrants. The media's reporting on the situation of refugees has not been conducive to a productive and well-balanced debate. As Spassov states,

"The media have consistently provided a platform to people using hate speech, and this nasty language has in turn replaced the sensible and expert talk about refugees-related matters".

Peaceful Assembly

On 10th June 2017, thousands turned out for the annual Pride Parade in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. In May of this year, the Bulgarian press announced that the authorities planned to take extra measures to ensure the physical security of participants.This came in response to a group of far-right extremists who protested against Pride under the slogan: “Clear up the rubbish in Sofia,” and also given the fact that past Pride Parades had been dangerous for participants with provocateurs turning violent. Civil society also called on law enforcement to ensure proper protection for parade goers.

On the day of the Parade, police took all necessary measures to prevent violence, and the march proceeded without any interference or reports of violence.