Following the journalistic investigation into inadmissible concentration of public funds in one bank and state support for one media group against the interests of all other market players, conduced by Capital weekly more than two years ago, I have regularly, every few months, been subject to every description of campaign and defamation in the media controlled by the group in question.
Some of the “scandalous” revelations were so absurd that I chose to pass them over in silence. Others simply collapsed under their own untenability. Still others I tried to respond to with facts, so that all critically minded people could judge for themselves. Headlines of the type Prokopiev Takes Up Yoga I simply treated as a joke.
This is happening to me for the second time after in 2001 a publication in Dnevnik daily on the brother of then Chief Prosecutor Nikola Filchev triggered a landslide of defamatory statements in the media, even inquiries. Although several years on all institutions judged in our favour and we were the moral winners, the defamatory style and methods survived.
I would like to tell the colleagues that I work with, my friends as well as those people who follow closely the last development of the campaigns against me that it is not out of a sense of guilt or fear that I am avoiding an exchanges of explanations with individual media. To my great regret as a publisher and newspaper founder, the values of true journalism have been almost completely lost, with a few exceptions in individual publications and electronic media, including our publications and several blogs. The consequences for the public are far-reaching. In my particular case and the cases of many other people whose reputation has been brutally destroyed with impunity, the result is that the public reaction is rendered pointless because the journalistic mechanisms for conscientious differentiation of fact from manipulation are failing. Fighting on this public terrain is like fighting a pig, there is no way for you to get out cleaner than you came in.
I have filed and am still in the process of preparing lawsuits against individual publications. That would also be my reaction after the last campaign, which for a few days now has had Nikolay Barekov and TV7, part of the same media group, as its mouthpiece.
I took the liberty of also writing this open letter not only because as a person I am absolutely stunned by what I have heard said about me on air. (Oligarch, this lazy media cliche that has already been devoid of meaning, is the softest qualification. But, I beg your pardon, “rodent”, “people killer”, “criminal”, reporters who come to my house to bother my family – all this goes beyond the boundaries even of today’s media “normalcy”).
I feel I have to mark out the layers on which the current campaign is being waged because I can see destructive tendencies of which I am not the only victim.
Firstly, attacks are being levelled against Kaolin, one of the companies in which Alfa Finance, the holding I am heading, is a stakeholder. We have developed and managed Kaolin through the years in a way that has now turned it into a leader in Eastern Europe. The company provides employment to over 1,000 people and is one of the biggest taxpayers in some of the poorest regions of Bulgaria. The unfounded attack is aimed at breaking contracts and shifting business into the hands of competitors.
We are not the only ones this has been happening to lately. Unfortunately, this is being imposed on companies and entrepreneurs as a formula for media terror, which institutions are too short-sighted to react to and even in some cases, wittingly or unwittingly, assist. The consequence being that the last chances of doing normal business and attracting normal investors to Bulgaria are being stifled.
Kaolin published a detailed statement explaining why the claim that the limestone the company produces has caused electricity price to rise is absurd http://kaolin.bg/bg/n/110-p-o-z-i-c-i-q.html. Anyone who is interested can read it, scrupulous journalists are welcome to ask more questions.
Limestone is not used to produce electricity and the differences in the price of this material havе a negligible effect on the end price of electricity. Kaolin is not the only supplier, neither does it supply the most expensive limestone to power plants. The fact that one of several companies is being attacked makes it obvious that this a campaign rather than a search for the truth.
It could be that the prices of competitors keen to launch a hostile takeover for Kaolin seem lower, but that is just at first glance. If, however, they also start paying the legal concession taxes, contributions, taxes; if they sign the same collective labour agreement for the mining sector, prices will jump way over Kaolin’s current offer.
It turns out that if your entire business is “in the light” and you have a public company, you are vulnerable. If you run a gray business, then you serve as example. In the end, as a society we have to decide what kind of business we want to have in Bulgaria.
Secondly, attacks are being levelled against the media I publish together with my partner Theodore Zahov. They are either direct or through efforts to tarnish my reputation.
I am convinced that this is happening because these media cannot be put to their knees by the political status quo and due to the fact that they are one of the few safe havens where different viewpoints can be freely expressed. A place, where we tell people what is happening in Bulgaria, without excess pathos, but with common sense.
Over the last few years the term independent media is being thwarted before the very eyes of our entire society. Instead of being a corrective force for those in power, the media have turned into a coalition partner. Politicians became publishers, while “journalistic investigation” degenerated into a defamation tool and an instrument for issuing “People’s Court”-type sentences. Accounts with business and political rivals are being squared in public, fear is being instilled into people, normal people are being disgusted. Our society is taking huge steps backwards, to the first years of the transition, when all key civil institutions – media and public organisations, were being falsified.
I want to make it clear that in our capacity as publishers of Capital and Dnevnik, Todor Zahov and I are determined to use all means possible to defend the right of the publications to be objective and independent in their stances, as they have been over the past 18 years.
* Based on the novels and film of the same name, where in the form of a TV reality, a people hunt is being organised to entertain the people. I took this brilliant analogy from Violeta Simeonova for what I thank her in advance.