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Bulgaria: PM Boyko Invites Creators of “Boykometer” for a Chat

A few days ago, the web site Politikat.net (The Politician; bg), created by prominent Bulgarian bloggers Komitata (Konstantin Pavlov) and Asen Genov, became the subject of the government's attention. Komitata wrote about it here [bg].

Politikat.net

Politikat.net is an Open Source platform that tracks how promises made by the government and PM Boyko Borisov are being fulfilled (or not fulfilled). It includes a special section called “Boykometer,” inspired by the US website Obameter.

On July 6, the press center of the ruling party GERB sent a letter [bg] to Komitata and Genov, asking them to provide statistics and resources used by Politikat.net:

Dear Mr. Genov,

In connection with your being responsible for administering the Politikat.net portal, which contains allegations of certain “promises” made by the Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and the statistics on his performance, we request your answers to a few supplementary questions.

On what basis are the speeches of Boyko Borisov selected (unless you claim that you have covered 100 percent of his public statements)?

By what criteria certain parts of Boyko Borisov's statements are qualified as “promises”?

What quantitative and qualitative measures were used to assess objectively the degree of implementation of the “promises”?

From what sources and in which order the information is collected, summarizing the progress of the “promises”?

How often do you update the statistics on the “promises” that have the status “in progress,” so as to ensure the timely submission of accurate data to the customers?

[...]

Sevdelina Arnaudova,
Head of Press Center of GERB

A widely-circulated humorous take on PM Borisov asking Asen Genov for statistics and information. Source: Vladimir Doychinov on Facebook

The government, led by Boyko Borisov, is facing criticism and accusations of pressure on the Bulgarian media. According to a report [bg; .pdf] of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, there is a “disturbing situation” with the freedom of speech in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian branch of the Association of European Journalists writes that “corporate journalism dominates Bulgarian media sector.”

After sending the letter, PM Borisov invited Genov and Pavlov to “discuss” Politikat.net and his “promises” to the people. It was disturbing that the Interior Minister also attended the meeting.

PM Borisov (center) together with the Interior Minister (left) during their meeting with bloggers Asen Genov and Komitata (right). Photo by Asen Genov, used with permission.

In 2011-2012, Bulgaria dropped dramatically – from the 70th to the 80th place – in the world press freedom rankings of Reporters Without Borders. The country ranks last among other EU states, sharing the same index with Serbia, Chile and Paraguay.

On July 7, The Economist published an article, in which the situation with the freedom of speech in Bulgaria was described this way:

[...] Mainstream newspapers are owned by banks or powerful companies. There is little investigative reporting. Advertising by the government and by state-owned companies is a big source of revenue for newspapers; because of that, self-censorship is the order of the day. [...]

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