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Proposals Made To Tackle 'Dire' Press-Freedom Situation In Bulgaria

SOFIA -- Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published 10 recommendations on how to address the "dire" situation of press freedom in Bulgaria, saying it seeks to stimulate a national debate on this "vital" matter in the run-up to elections next month.

Drafted with the help of Bulgarian media experts, the recommendations aim at all the political parties and the public in the EU member state after the government's "failure" to make press freedom a priority, the Paris-based group said in statement on March 10.

"Press freedom has reached an impasse in Bulgaria and independent media are on the brink of disappearing," said Pavol Szalai, the head of RSF's EU and Balkans desk, adding that the April 4 parliamentary elections "provide an opportunity for action by domestic political forces and every voter who is concerned about the freedom and quality of the media."

Proposals about journalists' safety, access to information, ethics, and media funding are included in the 10 recommendations.

RSF said they were intended to be combined with its proposal -- submitted to the government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov a year ago but "left without a response" -- to create an "independent and pluralistic national commission" for improving press freedom in the country.

Bulgaria is ranked 111th out of 180 countries in the watchdog's 2020 World Press Freedom Index, the lowest position of any EU country.

RSF said it had registered "numerous cases" of violence against reporters last year in connection with their work, while the authorities "have struggled to respond to these abuses."

Bulgaria's media professionals are also often subjected to "judicial and economic harassment," and media critical of the government are "denied state advertising and access to information."

"The independence of public broadcasters suffers from political interference while, in a conflict of interests, some privately-owned media are used to inflict reprisals without regard to journalistic ethics," according to the watchdog.

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