Democracy and the Euro-Atlantic path of Bulgaria are in danger!Monday, 29 October 2018
Of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria
on the limiting of freedom of speech and the use of State institutions for repressions against members of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria
The Atlantic Council of Bulgaria (ACB) finds а serious increase in the actions against our members, limiting their freedom of expression. We monitor, register and analyze with deepest concern in particular the actions of the State institutions putting pressure on Bulgarian citizens, whose freedom of expression is widely recognized by the Bulgarian public and beyond.
ACB considers as an act of repression the simultaneous deletion of all the Facebook profiles of the poet and ACB member Mr. Manol Glishev, well renowned for his sharp and critical civic position and language. Of the same nature is the deletion of the profiles of another ACB member, the lawyer Mr. Georgi Georgiev, popular with his analyses of facts and circumstances revealing the monopoly position of the Russian companies “Lukoil” and “Gazprom” in Bulgaria. We consider these cases as evidence of targeted and organized repression against the media freedom of these members of our Organization and against the freedom of expression of the Bulgarian civil society.
ACB would like to remind that in the social networks citizens have the right to freely share and exchange views, commentaries and positions on issues of their concern. This is why any denial of this right is a rude violation of the freedom of expression in Bulgaria. It aims to restrict their communication with the wider civil community in the country.
The deletion of these Facebook profiles is of the same nature as the familiar from the communist times political censorship, banning printed editions, silencing radio and television broadcasts and repressions against activists fighting for civil rights and freedoms.
ACB welcomes the new Facebook policy aimed at eradicating the “language of hatred” and disinformation, and at asserting the values of tolerance and respect for different opinions. Nevertheless, we also note that a number of states have started putting a specific censorship pressure on social networks and their content.
In Bulgaria social networks often compensate for the deficiencies of the “media environment” that is controlled and manipulated by political and oligarchic interests. The social networks provide a forum for the voice of all the citizens. And when they comment on political issues related to the governance of the country, their expression cannot be communicated only through the Aesopian language. Because many of the issues that they comment upon, have harsh and real, not mere symbolic or metaphorical effects on our lives.
ACB supports every civic expression in Facebook, aimed at defending Bulgaria from the increasingly powerful Russian hybrid aggression. For the unfolding of this aggression a number of media in our country provide ample space for a systemic disinformation. This determines the new role of the social networking by providing a venue for resisting the falsehood and disinformation, which attack the minds of Bulgarian citizens round the clock.
The media freedom in Bulgaria holds the disgraceful 111-th place in the world. One of the reasons is that the Russian hybrid aggression was allowed in the media space. But this logically leads to using the communication in social networks as the opportunity to resist this aggression. Denying this right of self-defense is tantamount to denying freedom of expression and is threatening our national security.
ACB defines the blocking and deletion of Facebook profiles of persons with active and critical civic position over one or another governmental decisions not as isolated events, but as a part of an organized and systematic hybrid attack against our members and against our organization as a whole.
We see frequent and continuous blocking of Facebook profiles of the co-chairman of ACB, Mr. Dimitri Vichev, the ACB members Mr. Georgi Georgiev, Mr. Corneliy Savov, Mr. Theodor Spasov, Mr. Asen Genov, Prof. Velislav Minekov and others. Our analysis showed that they were “reported” on purely formal bases by organized groups of “faceless and nameless” persons, guided and probably funded, by backstage party circles or oligarchs. But we do not exclude their eventual connection with foreign special services, too, which carry out hybrid attacks on the territory of Bulgaria.
In the West, these so-called “Troll Factories” from where such persons operate, were exposed to the public thanks to the free press. From such “Troll Factories” cyber-attacks were conducted in the US during the presidential elections in 2016, but their activity was also recorded during election periods in other NATO members, too.
At an international conference organized by ACB in the end of September 2018, the former Bulgarian president Mr. Rosen Plevneliev stated that the cyberattack against Bulgaria, which was carried out during the referendum on the Electronic Voting in the autumn of 2015, was prepared and carried out by a Russian hacker groups under the control of the Russian special services.
ACB stresses that the attacks against our colleagues, as well as against many other citizens having an active social and political position, are not due to problems related to “inappropriate language”, but to their principal positions in defense of democracy, freedom, and the Euro-Atlantic orientation of Bulgaria. They are subject to attack because they have the courage and the dignity to stand up to the Russian hybrid aggression.
ACB concludes that in Bulgaria, official state institutions use oppressive methods to “restraint” citizens who do not share the political positions of the people in power.
In the beginning of March 2018, members of the ACB were subjected to police repression in connection with the visit to Bulgaria of the Russian Patriarch Kiril. The ACB Management Board member Ms. Olena Kotseva, the members Mr. Theodore Spassov and Mr. Kalin Dimitrov, as well as other citizens, active in the social networks, were visited at their homes by agents of the Ministry of Interior to be reprimanded against for their social networks postings and positions. They were illegally summoned to the police stations to give explanation for their Facebook comments and were required to sign Warning Protocols, promising that they would not comment on the visit and the statements of the Russian patriarch.
On these blatant examples of police arbitrariness, the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria responded with an official statement:
Similar example are the continuous and numerous attempts of the State Prosecutor’s Office to apply methods and tricks dating back to the times of the communist regime. The State Prosecutor opens pre-trial proceedings and manufactures false allegations against members of the ACB. Such repression is exerted on the members of the ACB Management Board Mr. Kiril Chukanov and the former minister of economy, energy and tourism Mr. Traicho Traikov, the members of the ACB Mr. Manol Glishev and the former minister of foreign affairs Mr. Daniel Mitov. Repressive measures are now applied with regard to the former defense minister Mr. Nikolay Nenchev, who systematically defended the Bulgarian national interest through his actions as minister and his civic position.
One last example of the use of state institutions to put pressure on persons which are “discomforting” the government is the action taken against the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Cassation, the judge Lozan Panov.
The purpose of these repressions is to undermine the public respect for individuals known for their resolute civic position. The goal is to humiliate these persons and to sow fear in the society. And these practices are taken from the toolbox of the criminal communist regime in Bulgaria.
ACB continues to wait for information from the Ministry of Interior regarding the guilty persons they found, and on the course of the investigation concerning the threats posed to the life of the members of the ACB Management Board Mr. Alexander Yordanov and Mr. Metodi Andreev. On November 14, 2017 we issued a statement on this issue:
ACB has corroborating evidence for concealed in-house institutional investigations conducted against members of the ACB, who are now working as civil servants, where they are threatened with disciplinary punishment, including dismissing from employment, for publically voicing their personal positions in Bulgarian Media in support of the objectives of ACB aimed at making Bulgaria a stronger and hence more respected member of NATO and the EU.
ACB protests against the use of Bulgarian State institutions for suppression of citizens’ rights and freedoms and for tarnishing their reputation.
ACB recalls that many times, through public declarations and positions, we have urged the State authorities to undertake firm and visible actions to put an end to all kinds of threats to Bulgarian citizens, carried out by individuals and organizations with anti-Bulgarian, anti-European, anti-NATO and pro-Kremlin political positions, as well as for the termination of their activity on the territory of Bulgaria.
Up to now, any such actions, even at a declarative level, are completely absent.
Regarding the mass blocking and deletion of Facebook social network profiles, the ACB is firmly committed to make sure that the US State Department is informed that Facebook provides golden opportunity for conducting the Russian hybrid war against Bulgaria. We had analyzed this in our March 10 article published on the ACB site:
The ACB once again affirms that the violation of the freedom of speech and the use of State institutions for repressions against citizens and non-governmental organizations are illegal by the Constitution and the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria.
ACB urges the European Commission, the European Parliament, the NATO Headquarters and the Governments of the allied States to pay serious attention to the attempts to restrict the freedom of speech in Bulgaria, as well as to the official State tolerance to the Russian hybrid attacks against a NATO and EU member state.
ACB once again warns that the core values of democracy and the Euro-Atlantic Path of Bulgaria are in danger!
of the Atlantic Council of Bulgaria
Categorised in: Civil society and democracy