NGOs against draft law regulating magistrates' associations

Association

Civil society oppose bill on professional magistrates' associations

In July 2017, 20 NGOs in Bulgaria spoke out against a new draft law that would prohibit professional associations of magistrates from receiving external funding. Civil society claims that the law has ambiguous content and can be interpreted arbitrarily and could be potentially discriminatory towards those associations and hinder their activities. In their statement, the NGOs declared that:

"The ability of the non-profit organizations to raise funds is an integral part of the right of freedom to associate".

Freedom of association for religious groups

During an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Warsaw in September 2017, representatives of the European Association of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses made an official statement on freedom of association for religious organisations in Bulgaria. According to the statement, freedom of association in Bulgaria is guaranteed in law, but in practice members of some religious organisations face pressure and harassment. In those documented cases, the authorities have failed to protect the groups targeted. The statement also referenced the restriction on freedom of religion through fines imposed by officials who prohibit certain religious activities. On the other hand, the Association also mentioned that, in general, journalists' reporting no longer conveys messages that incite hatred or intolerance towards different religious groups. 

Peaceful Assembly

Police and firefighters protest in Bulgaria

On 14th September 2017, police officers and firefighters organised a protest in the National Assembly Square demanding higher salaries. Protesters intend to hold similar events in October 2017 if the authorities fail to accept their demands. Protesters also expressed their intention to protest every day after Bulgaria takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. 

Over the last several months, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria and the Podkrepa Confederation of Labour have also considered organising protests over low salaries and the lack of pay raises, especially for those working in small municipalities. 

Expression

Bulgarian minority religious groups face harmful speech

In August 2017, Sofia Globe produced an analysis on cases of harmful speech against different religious groups. According to the authors, minority religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, suffer beause of the authorities' inactivity when such incidents occur. Muslim groups reported cases of harassment and incidents of hostile rhetoric by members of some political parties. According to Sofia Globe, in most cases, the government failed to prosecute perpetrators of such attacks and also failed to provide the necessary protection. 

Bulgaria media freedom – lower than in any other EU country

According to the Reporters without Borders, Bulgaria is the lowest ranked EU member state in the latest World Press Freedom Index. The reasons for the low ranking are similar to last year's: corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs, lack of transparency in the distribution of external funding for media outlets, and bribes paid to the journalists. Another issue hindering press freedom is the control oligarchs have over print media distribution in the country.