Bulgaria: commercial interests instrumentalise the media

In the Bulgarian vernacular media are known as "baseball bats" because of the way they try to push through the interests of their owners with smear campaigns. Yet only twenty years ago the media still enjoyed the trust of the population.

Environmental activists demonstrating in January 2018 against government plans to build groomed skiing trails in Bulgarian nature reserves.
Environmental activists demonstrating in January 2018 against government plans to build groomed skiing trails in Bulgarian nature reserves.
When legal proceedings were launched against businessman Ivo Prokopiev for tax evasion at the end of 2016, the media outlets in his publishing group began to report intensively on the work of the tax authorities, presenting the legal action as politically motivated. And ever since the daily Trud was bought by media entrepreneur Petjo Blaskov with financing from Bulgaria’s First Investment Bank, the paper has continually tried to discredit the environmental organisations that oppose the plans of the bank's supervisory board to turn Bulgarian nature reserves into ski slopes.

Lowest-ranking EU country in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index

The majority of the media outlets in Bulgaria are now in the hands of a handful of entrepreneurs who exploit them for their own political ends. This is also the reason why Bulgaria occupies the last place among EU member states in the Reporters Without Borders ranking.

Yet in the highly politicised years after the end of the Cold War, the media was more pluralistic than ever before. The strong demand for independent journalism after decades of communist repression of media freedom (1944–1989) led to the founding of numerous new print media. But due to declining revenues from advertising most newspapers can barely support themselves financially and are dependent on donations.

Whereas the first independent dailies 24 Chasa and Trud are still regarded as the leading media organs, the communist successor newspaper Duma leads a shadow existence these days. The weekly Kapital and the daily Kapital Daily are regarded as quality newspapers targeting an educated readership with an interest in political and economic news.

Bloggers flock to Facebook

As the Internet grew in importance a large number of web and news sites such as News.bg and Dnevnik.bg. sprang up in the early 2000s and now have a wide reach. By contrast, blogs go almost entirely unnoticed, as most bloggers have migrated to social media. Texts are now being posted on Facebook instead of self-run blogs.

Since the sale of private broadcaster Nova TV to Bulgarian oligarch Kiril Domuschiev, the trend of media owners exploiting their outlets for their own ends has spread to the television sector. Shortly after Nova was transferred from the Czech PPF Group to Domuschiev's Advance Media Group in 2019, there was a wave of redundancies at the network. Well-known investigative reporters including Miroluba Benatova, Genka Schikerova and Marin Nikolov, who had made a name for themselves with critical reports on the government and numerous exposés, were dismissed without explanation.

Although the public service television channels BNT1, BNT2 and BNT HD continue to have a strong influence on public opinion, their lack of international entertainment formats means that their viewer figures are lower than those of the private channels. Bulgarian National Radio and the private station Darik Radio are the only nationwide broadcasters with predominantly spoken content.

World Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 111 (2020)

Last updated: April 2020


More information about press freedom in Bulgaria is available »here (in English).
Media search

Media from Bulgaria at euro|topics

Media search