Friday 15.12.2017 in Latest Developments in Bulgaria Country Page
Politician found guilty of anti-Roma rhetoric
A Bulgarian politician has been found guilty of promoting anti-Roma sentiment. According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, former Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of the National Council for Cooperation on Ethnic and Integration Issues of the Republic of Bulgaria, Valeri Simeonov, was convicted following his anti-Roma speech before the National Assembly on 17th December 2014. The same source reported that Simeonov is also the leader of the Bulgarian ultranationalist party, National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, currently in opposition. The lawsuit was filed by two Bulgarian journalists of ethnic Roma origin, Kremena Budinova and Ognian Isaev, represented by the the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee's legal programme.
The Bulgarian court ruled that Simeonov's speech constituted harassment and violated the dignity of the person. They also said it created a hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment for anyone of Roma ethnicity. The CIVICUS Monitor has previously reported on negative public discourse surrounding Roma people in Bulgaria, highlighting that in 2016 a survey of the media found "overwhelmingly" negative connotations for reporting on Roma issues. Bulgaria is home to the second largest population of Roma in the EU.
Struggle for media independence in Bulgaria
The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) recently conducted a survey on media independence in Bulgaria. According to the results, there is still significant political control over information sharing in the country. The survey found that political actors use their power as the owners of media outlets to interfere with and influence the content and material produced by the media.
According to Sofia-based news agency Novinite, the AEJ survey indicates that 42 percent of journalists rate the situation for freedom of speech in the country as "bad", and only 4.5 percent believe it is "good". Also, there is a general impression that journalists are also being influenced by political actors.
According to the Bulgarian publication Novinite, registration fees for Bulgarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will soon decrease following a proposal by the Ministry of Justice. From 1st January 2018, Bulgarian NGOs will be registered with the Registry Agency and not with the court as was previously the case. Novinite also reports that non-profit legal entities will submit paperwork to all offices of the Registry Agency in the country wherever their main office is located. Also, applicants will be able to submit their applications electronically and the fee for this will be 50 percent lower than the ones submitted in person.
Protests over decent working conditions for professionals
The Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) has demanded salary increases of at least 700 Bulgarian lev (approximately $422) for university graduates who are working in their field of expertise. These demands for salary increases were made during a protest organised on 27th October 2017, during which over 8,000 Bulgarian workers gathered on central streets of the capital Sofia. Only the leaders of the Confederation of Labour “Podkrepa” refused to participate in the protest. According to the organisers, their main demands are in response to the socio-economic situation in the country and the need for higher wages and a consistent legal framework for the protection of workers' rights.
In addition, the IndustriALL Global Union affiliates from around the world expressed their solidarity with the workers protesting in Bulgaria at their 4.0 World Conference held in Geneva from 26th to 27 October, 2017.