Freedom of speech

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Freedom of expression in Bulgaria has been gradually worsening over the year. In 2010, Bulgaria dropped two positions in Reporters Without Borders’ traditional ranking, falling from the 68th to 70th place. According to a survey published in Bulgaria in October 2010, Bulgaria and Greece are the EU countries where the media have the least freedom. In Freedom House’s key report on freedom of the press around the world, Bulgaria remained in the 76th place, ranking together with Namibia as a state with ‘partly free media’. Bulgaria and Romania are the only EU countries in this category. Freedom House noted that reporters in Bulgaria ‘continue to face pressure and intimidation aimed at protecting economic, political, and criminal interests. The perpetrators often operate with impunity, leading to some self-censorship among journalists’.

Libel and defamation are still subject to criminal prosecution in Bulgaria. The beginning of 2011 marked an alarming development in this respect. Over the past years many European countries have decriminalised libel and defamation, leaving an opportunity for redress only within civil law proceedings. In 2007, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly called for member states to decriminalise libel and defamation. The OECD representative on freedom of the media did the same in 2006. Instead of reforming the law towards fewer restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, in early 2011 the ruling party announced its intention to draft a special act against defamation. Such an act would steer democratic development in Bulgaria in the wrong direction and would introduce standards contradicting international provisions on human rights.

You can read more on the freedom of expression problematic in BHC’s annual report and in the sections below.