Bulgarians protest COVID-19 measures, over construction of coastline

Bulgarians protest COVID-19 measures, over construction of coastline

Association

Open calls for Bulgarian CSOs to cope with the impact of COVID-19

In the context of COVID-19, several international donors launched calls for projects and initiatives aimed to sustain Bulgarian civil society as the country takes measures to curb the spread of the pandemic. The funds’ objectives are to strengthen democracy, promote human rights and support independent media to provide the correct information for citizens about the impact of COVID-19, gender equality and social policies.

Peaceful Assembly

New protest against COVID-19 measures

Protests against measures taken by various authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 continued in May 2020. According to the media, on 14th May 2020, pro-Russian and ultra-nationalist political forces in Bulgaria held protests after the Sofia authorities imposed restrictive measures in March, which affected the country's economy. Radio Free Europe reported that the Vazrazhdane party's protest in front of the National Assembly in May was among the first, as protesters demanded the government's resignation and the removal of restrictions. They described the pandemic as part of a global conspiracy to compulsorily vaccinate the population, promoted by Bill Gates. Eight people were detained for violating COVID-19 restrictions on assemblies.

‘Seaside without Concrete’ protests held

In June 2020, protests against unrestricted construction on the Black Sea coastline were held in the country. This followed reports by several Bulgarian publications about new construction in the protected area of Alepu on the Black Sea coast, which will affect the ecosystem and the landscape in the area. According to some sources however, part of the constructions is intended to strengthen the coast and build new tourist attractions such as resorts or hotels.

On 12th June, citizens were invited through social networks to join further demonstrations under the slogan "МОРЕ БЕЗ БЕТОН"(Seaside Without Concrete). The protests were held in front of the Regional Directorate for Construction Supervision of Alepu, which they said was directly responsible for both the new development in Alepu and other concrete structures along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.

More protests were held on 7th July 2020 in the streets of Sofia and subsequently spread to several localities including Aitos, Blagoevgrad, Botevgrad, Burgas, Dupnica, Plovdiv, Ruse, Sliven and Tsarevo.

Expression

Investigative journalist receives death threats

After publishing the first part of the documentary “The Eight Dwarfs” which alleged that the Prosecutor's office and other official entities were involved in the financial swindling of businessman Iliya Zlatanov, investigative reporter Nikolay Staykov said he received several death threats. Although the journalist filed a complaint with the police, the authorities did not immediately launch an investigation. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged authorities to ensure the security of the journalist and called for legal proceedings to be initiated.

In recent years several reports have mentioned that investigative journalism has become dangerous in Bulgaria, affecting both the quality of published materials and the independence and safety of media practitioners who insist on respect for transparency, accountability and the accountability of policymakers.