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New Media Compensate for the Traditional Media Self-censorship

22 July 2014 / 16:07:34  GRReporter
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Ivo Bozhkov is a reporter and blogger covering the most important demonstrations of the Bulgarian civil society live on the Internet. In 2013, he was awarded the prize for online media and the blog of Valya Krushkina – Journalism for the People competition, as well as the Person of the Year award of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. Since the beginning of 2014, he has been the host of an overview show on Evrokom TV, The Week Live. Polina Spartyanova speaks with Ivo Bozhkov.

During the last few years you have been broadcasting Sofia protests live on the Internet, could you tell us how these demonstrations evolved within this period?

The first demonstration I broadcasted live was the Orlov Most protest against the amendments in the Law on forests in 2012 and it was not covered by the official media. At the time, the large public media remained silent and the necessary information became public only thanks to new technologies. Each large-scale demonstration reflects a real reason and a specific problem behind it. The job description of each politician is that he/she should decipher the reasons behind what is happening and find solutions to them through discussion and dialogue. Unfortunately, our politicians consider protesters their enemies, and not the reasons for the demonstrations themselves. This showed most clearly during the DANSwithme demonstrations when the Bulgarian political class refused to admit engagement in underhand dealings and that it had completely lost the voters’ trust, and instead introduced the crazy concept of the so-called contra-protest.

What is the idea behind your blog and platform?
My cause is transparency and information in real time. Regardless of whether we are talking about important public events or about covering live on the Internet all public tenders, contracts as well as the state’s cash flow. The sole guarantee for preventing the misuse of public funds is for these funds to be constantly monitored and for the public to know the flow of each lev at any time. People have been lied to many times and they don’t believe in empty promises for honesty anymore. The political authorities in Bulgaria have proven that they use their political power for diverting funds in the “right” directions and hence only transparency and not beautiful promises can change the present situation. Nobody passes a crossroads at a red light if he/she knows that there is a camera there and it will automatically record his/her registration number. The same should hold true for each politician.

Can a blogger in Bulgaria have a career?
Blogging is a hobby to share your views about the world in different aspects: music, cooking, politics, fashion. Bloggers abroad can earn their living if they are popular enough and their blog are visited often, but this is not the case in Bulgaria. My blogging activity is one of a civil journalist who shares his opinion about the political and public life in the country. My career accompanies my blogging and before a TV host in Evrokom TV, I worked for a long time for the National Network for Children, an association of 120 organizations in Bulgaria engaged with children and families.

How would you comment on the fact that Bulgarian media lacks the freedom of speech?
The media self-censorship is one of the biggest problems for the freedom of speech in our country. The proverb “No sword cuts off a bowed head” is still valid. This is still the case since the Council of Ministers distributes millions of Bulgarian lev for the PR of the European Operational Programmes by their sole judgment. This flaw exists in other countries too and it is not a coincidence that the Civil Initiative for Media Pluralism is currently collecting one million signatures in the European Union in order to initiate a legislative change at EU level that will impose rules on media. Media concentration is another big problem that is killing the search for truth and assigns Bulgaria a shameful place in the freedom of speech rankings.

What is the alternative media in Bulgaria and is there enough space for independence?
I did not realise it from the very beginning, but I have become a part of the alternative media mainly because of my live broadcasting of demonstrations that have been watched by more than half a million people. It’s nice that I’m not the only one writing, showing or shooting videos. The new technologies and the social networks have made up for the lack of freedom of speech and people’s need to be informed by trustful sources. This is the independent space shaping a different agenda. During the past year, this virtual agenda has been successfully imposed on the real political agenda in the country. Everyone began asking the question WHO? Everyone understood that Delyan Peevski holds “my media”, as he calls them himself, that people like Tsvetan Vasilev have economic power that is closely related, unexpectedly, to the media and politics. Everyone understood that many things happen behind the curtain and they shall be brought to light. This phenomenon shall continue to become more powerful.

In 2013, Bulgaria plummeted to 100th place in the ranking of "Reporters without Borders". Can new media help society overcome the growing media crisis and how?

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