For journalists to survive

For journalists to survive

A journalist attacked again. Brutally. With tubes and kicks in the head. In the street. This time – in the center of Sofia – the capital of a EU member state.

Similar attacks hadn’t happened for over a year, or at least we did not hear about any. Not of such violent scale.

But we never heard about the smaller attacks. The ones that happen everyday. From the petty daily editorial compulsion to distort and obscure the truth in line with the interests and whims of this or that media owner, or their political clients. Through the humiliation and neglect by self-indulgent moguls or  politicians who refer to journalists as “oligophrenic”, “chicken” or “fake news” – and еxpect them to really be such. Up to the direct threats and abhorrent hints of “vacant seats” and the outright removal of uncomfortable journalists from their jobs.

None of these happens only in Bulgaria unfortunately!

Slavi Angelov made the news because the assault on him could not be so easily swept under the carpet. The arrogant impunity of his attackers brought to light the failure of the Bulgarian rule of law in one of its main duties: to ensure the security and rule of law.

Not just for the journalists, or the policemen, or the doctors…. Not just for women, Roma, gay people, cyclists or, say, non-smokers… Security and rule of  law needs to be ensured for all Bulgarian, all European citizens. This is what Bulgaria – and the EU – must guarantee.

The strikes on Slavi Angelov echoed distinctly like bloody slaps on the government’s pretence for European stability. They sent everyone a clear message: “A journalist is defenseless! And so are you!”.

The condemnation and fierce reproaches by Bulgaria’s ruling politicians and the Attorney General are insufficient. Yes, the direct perpetrators should be caught and a just punishment should be delivered upon them. And we all hope for Slavi Angelov’s health and journalistic spirit’s prompt recovery.

But to prevent such crimes, the government should do much more. End political dependency of institutions and public authorities, including – and first of all – the ones in charge of security, justice and rule of law, including the Bulgarian Prosecution. Reset them to protect and maintain citizens and their rights and security, rather than the ruling status-quo. Ensure independent and effective justice. And last but not least, stop the media being captured, paid and exploited as tools for manipulation, propaganda and blackmail.

Because depriving the media of independence and social responsibility is the first and most effective step towards eliminating journalism.

A fortnight after the assault Slavi Angelov wrote on his Facebook profile: “Whatever happens, it is important not to lose direction. Let us know where the light is. They may hit us. They might tear us down. We can learn to walk again. I’ve done it several times already. It hurts and is difficult but great because it is a new beginning. Believe me, no one can ever take that away from us!”. Photo: Personal profile on Facebook.

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