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Home / Resources / News / Citizens’ consultation on media pluralism: findings for the Citizens Manifesto

Citizens’ consultation on media pluralism: findings for the Citizens Manifesto

Media Pluralism in Bulgaria: from a Citizens Initiative to a Citizens PactFriday and Saturday 12th-13th April 2013
The Red House, Lyuben Karavelov street 15, 1142 Sofia
Find out more information about the Citizens Manifesto, about the Sofia consultation and about the European Citizens’ Initiative for Media Pluralism: sign here!

You can download the findings of this citizens’ consultation here.

The consultation on Media Pluralism in Bulgaria, organised by European Alternatives and the Centre for the Development of Media, brought together journalists, representatives of media and human rights defence organisations, who debated issues related to media freedom and pluralism in Bulgaria and the EU.


Table discussions: issues to be debated and introduction to the key proposals

The proposals numbered below were elaborated through discussions using the World Café methodology. They reflect the opinions held by the majority of those who participated in the public consultation, even though their opinions and ideas often displayed a variety of positions. Some of the proposals were developed on several discussion tables, but for the sake of clarity, similar concerns have been merged together.  If you wish to react to or comment on a proposal – or even suggest new ideas – please use the “comments” box at the bottom of the page.


Media Ownership
Moderated by Ivan Radev, Association of European Journalists in Bulgaria

Audience of media outlets is likely to alter once the real owners of the outlet become public: however, often media tycoons are hidden behind a countless set of proxies that stand as the legal representatives and have their names in all company registers. Ensuring transparency requires appropriate measures and over-regulation of the market is commonly feared. Excessive legislation may be avoided (as well as the contingent concerns that it might be abused by interested economic/political powers) and one of the good models among many around the world may include assigning journalists with a share in the media outlet.
How could we identify who really stand behind a media outlet? What can substitute for additional legislative measures in the media sector? May journalists play a role within their employing company as well?

1. “Media Owners”international online database: to be updated on a continuous basis by Human rights organisations and freedom of information NGOs. Name and background information about the persons related to the ownership (de facto and de jure) shall be given in different languages and supported by links to publications giving further information.

2. Best practices toolbox: as a combination of examples from the national legislation and soft-law (ethic codes, intra-media compliance measures), it will be offered publicly as a model for inspiration as well as grounds for advocacy work.

3. Journalists become shareholders: assigning a share in the media outlet to journalists or a representative of the body of journalists in a media will allow them to have complete access to all the information but also influence the strategic decisions, for example, the introduction of further accountability measures within the media outlet.

Whistleblowers’ support
Moderated by Venelina Popova, independent journalist, awarded with the Panitsa Award for her whistleblowingCourageous journalists risk their jobs (and lives) for their professional pledges and for sticking to the standards of providing accurate information to the audience of their pieces. Mishaps happen after they disclose the tricks of their editors/employers in manipulating the public with forged information.
What can whistleblower journalists do after they disclose the true information and their boss’s misconduct? Who can be involved in their support strategies and what could those consist of?
4. Circle of Supporters: as an informal structure, it will include journalists and NGO representatives that subscribe to concrete criteria about “a whistleblower” and support measures. The Circle will be self-managed, rather as a FB/Mail group which could easily mobilize to help the whistleblower.

5. Solidarity Fund for the Circle of Supporters: run by the Circle of Supporters, the fund will consist of in-kind and pecuniary contributions. The in-kind side might include basic things collected ad hoc as a place to live, food, clothes/shoes, while the pecuniary part might be used for legal aid, for example.

6. Supporting whistleblowers to continue working: the Circle of Supporters/fellow journalists shall ask (their) media outlets if the whistleblower may be hired even on a temporary/freelance/part-time basis. They shall put the whistleblowers in touch with associations/media outlets of independent journalists so that the whistleblower will be able to continue their profession and make a living.

Moderated by Vesislava Antonova, journalist at the Capital NewspaperJournalists are sometimes prevented from publishing complete and accurate stories: it might be a superior (the employer/the media outlet owner) or the journalists themselves that is to blame. Other means of covering and giving publicity to the story might be conceived and employed.
What are the alternative ways of giving publicity to a (self-) censored piece? How can the author publish their piece without any threat and self-restraint?
7. Sharing the full story: the journalist shall be allowed to give publicity to the complete/genuine story through other media by signing other publications, either as another author (fake name) or by submitting as an anonymous letter to the editor.

8. Providing other perspectives: fellow journalists, human rights activists or the author (under a fake name) to publish censored publications in their original and uncensored form on forums, FB, etc., along with a copy (scanned, transcribed, etc.) of the censored publication. It may take form of a comment underneath an article in the electronic version of the censored article.

Freedom through alternative media
Moderated: by Imir Rashid, Westminister University PhD Student in Communication Sciences, bloggerMainstream media do not provide a platform for information produced and published fully independently from any interest. Citizens and freelance journalists need a space for diverse perspectives: alternatives to the conventional outlets are out there and require collaborative efforts of the wider public.
What sources of news may one resort to instead of conventional media? May citizens and freelance journalists play a role and to what extend their independent work per se is self-sustained?
9. Citizen Journalism: Capacity building NGOs and journalists shall equip wide audiences with the necessary skills and toolkits (in electronic, downloadable format) to write publications, hence enabling a more pluralistic coverage of events. A website where all citizen journalism reports will be uploaded shall be set up for Bulgaria.

10. Independent journalists: The European Initiative for Media Pluralism Coalition (partners and the website) should give publicity to reports by independent journalists and links to their blogs shall be promoted. NGOs shall be encouraged to provide independent journalists with a space and equipment (use only). A map of friendly NGOs around the country shall be drawn and distributed widely through mailing groups, FB, websites, etc.