Counter protest held in response to pro-Nazi march in February

Peaceful Assembly

Anti-Nazi march in Sofia

On 17th February 2018, counter protesters marched under the slogans “No to Nazis on our Streets” and “No to a Fortress Europe”. The march was a counter protest to the Lukov March that usually takes place in February to commemorate a pro-Nazi Bulgarian general who led the pro-Nazi Germany Union of Bulgarian National Legions from the 1930s until his assassination in February 1943.

Many condemned the Lukov March, including the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs who declared that any act glorifying Nazi ideology is “absolutely unacceptable”. An international petition against the Lukov March gathered more than 178,000 signatures. Despite the petition and protests against the demonstration, the march still took place on 17th February, with Antifa Bulgaria emphasising the link between Lukov and the Third Reich.

The Sofia Globe reported that Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandukova attempted to ban the march, but the ban was overturned by the Supreme Administrative Court. Every year the march has proceeded with a heavy police presence.

Prison staff in Bulgaria protest

On 10th March 2018, the Trade Union of Employees in Prisons in Bulgaria announced a large protest over low wages and an insufficient number of personnel. Several similar protests took place in December 2017 and January of this year, prior to the start of the Bulgarian EU Presidency. In their open letter to the government, the protesters asked for a 20 percent salary increase and the hiring of more staff in the prisons. 

Expression

In March 2018, Open Society Institute – Sofia released the Media Literacy Index for 2018. According to this edition of the Index, Bulgaria ranks 30th out of 35 countries, the same ranking as last year. This Index examined countries' level of resilience in handling and responding to the 'fake news' phenomenon. 

Association

On 10th and 17th March, 2018, the Amalipe Centre for Interethnic Dialog and Tolerance from Veliko Tirnovo, Bulgaria organised two, one-day seminars focused on developing volunteer efforts to address issues facing Roma communities. The Centre works with hundreds of volunteers across the country to develop activities such as information campaigns, early marriages prevention, campaigns to improve health culture, support for education and local school activities, among others. The issues facing Roma communities in Bulgaria are often in the media spotlight, which can often lead to stereotypes and harmful speech. Such volunteer initiatives aim to combat negativity towards the Roma community in the public space and build bridges between ethnic groups in the country.