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News 22 Sep 17

Book Naming Bulgarian Oligarchs' 'Servants' Puzzles MEPs

A mysterious free book, attacking various Bulgarian judges, journalists and politicians as tools of oligarchs – and sent to European Parliamentarians – appears to be linked to a controversial businessman.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
The EP hemicycle in Brussels. Photo: By Treehill - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The offices of several Members of the European Parliament have confirmed to BIRN that they have received a mysterious book for free, named “The Bulgarian Oligarchy. They Plundered the State”.

It is published by the Bulgarian newspaper Telegraf, which is part of the Balkan Media Company, linked to the controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski.

The cover shows exiled ex-banker Tsvetan Vassilev, pharma boss Ognyan Donev, former prime minister Ivan Kostov, and others, all accused of plundering Bulgaria and establishing the current oligarchy.

However, the book also attacks judges known for their criticism of the state of the Bulgarian judiciary and its independence – such as the head of the Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov and Miroslava Todorova, a former President of the Union of Bulgarian Judges. It calls them the “judges of the oligarchy”.

The cover of the book received by MEPs on Monday. Photo: BIRN

NGO activists and journalists have also been named as mercenaries and as generators of fake news.

Among those targeted are the prominent analyst and New York Times columnist Ivan Krastev, two founders of the investigative website Bivol, Atanas Chobanov and Asen Yordanov, the chairman of Transparency International Bulgaria, Ognyan Minchev, and others.

Kharim Khattab, press officer for German Die Linke party MEPs, told BIRN that most MEPs from their group had received the Bulgarian tome.

However, he doubted the parliamentarians had read the publication, as its arrival coincided with the so-called Green Week of the parliament, when MEPs visit their local constituencies.

Dimitar Dimitrov, a Brussels coordinator of the Bulgarian Green Party, qualified the publication as “propaganda” and said MEPs often receive such material, mostly from Turkey.

“The effect is that they consider the book fake news and Bulgaria as an unreliable state”, he said.

Since March, Telegraf has distributed several books for free together with the paper. The first in the series, “Robbers of Democracy”, accused various people of being “foreign mercenaries” working for US billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The Central Electoral Commission banned its distribution in March, as it targeted candidates running for the parliamentary vote on March 26, which the law does not allow during the campaign period.

BIRN asked Telegraf for more details about the book, disseminated in the EP and whether it was destined only for a foreign audience. No answer was received by time of publication.

Bulgaria is ranked at 109th place in the global press freedom ranking of Reporters without Borders, lower than any other European state.

The press freedom watchdog attributed this “to an environment dominated by corruption and collusion between media, politicians, and oligarchs including Deylan Peevski” – whose family owns Telegraf.

 

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