“There is a huge vacuum in the middle in which there are no reasonable, balanced and respectful of human dignity publications and discussions,” shares Ivan Bedrov, Bulgarian journalist from Club Z Magazine and online media. In our conversation with him, as well as with Biser Petkov, who is part of Roma community, we contemplate on the minorities in Bulgarian (New) Media.
YCD: Is there enough space in the Bulgarian media, particularly online, for the topic of minorities? Which minorities come into the media? Which are more open – traditional or new media?
Ivan Bedrov: My impressions are more from TV and online media, where minorities are present mainly as problem – Roma as generator of crime, Turks as voters of the most hated political party of Bulgaria and conductor of the policy of the Republic of Turkey, refugees as a threat, LGBT as insolent boredom. Only the problems of people with disabilities are traditionally presented in good faith. All other often fall victim to populist political discourse. Against this trend stand far fewer shining positive publications protecting the rights of these communities. There is a huge vacuum in the middle in which there are no reasonable, balanced and respectful of human dignity publications and discussions.
Biser Petkov: The topic of minorities resonates in Bulgarian media primarily burdened with negativity because of crimes committed by them. Good examples are shown less and less. And still there are such! In general there is a lack of minorities’ points of view. The floor is rarely given to their representatives and when this happens, it’s often to incompetent representatives which is a base to form negative public opinion.2.
YCD: Does it happen often news related to minorities to be at the forefront of Internet media? What type of news is it?
Ivan Bedrov: Traditionally this happens very often in the most popular and yellowish Internet publications. Any criminal or absurd story with Gypsies, or Roma, gays or lesbians in the title ranks high, the audience responds with zest and these publications are among the most read. Refugees are another case, because the topic is often leading in the last few months. Here is a very sharp division between a normal and a yellowish provocative media. First focus on the problems of refugees and their host countries, others – on fear.
Biser Petkov: Most often news concerning minorities, particularly Roma, who are leading, are highly negative.
YCD: What are the predominant type of news and journalistic materials related to minorities in Bulgaria?
Ivan Bedrov: Sensational and scandalous, about crimes and unknown differences, also banal positive for holidays and traditions. No moderate reflection of everyday problems, which is subject to the traditional rules of journalism.
Biser Petkov: Prevailing news are mainly of criminal nature, followed by social and scandalous. More rarely one can find materials related to the Roma culture and traditions for example, which are also part of the cultural wealth of the country.
YCD: Is the viewpoint of the minorities advocated in the materials on the topic? Do they have their own media – traditional or new?
Ivan Bedrov: Their media to reach a sufficient number of people – no, they don’t have. Bulgarian National Television (BNT) has news in Turkish, Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) has programs in Turkish, there are some low-circulation newspapers in Turkish, Roma, Armenian or bilingual, which practically do not reach anyone. Technology enables everyone to consume the best from around the world on any language. Satellites and Internet enabled Turks and Roma to watch Turkish channels. Facebook enabled them to participate in groups of interest on Turkish speaking throughout Europe.
TVs more often give the floor to minorities, print and online media more often do not consult the affected, nor even check the story.
Biser Petkov: In Bulgaria, in general there is a lack of media created by and for Roma. In some of the national media Roma, as journalists and as viewpoint, sometimes find place, such as in the public television and radio (BNT and BNR).
YCD: In what direction the Bulgarian media reported the refugee crisis? To what extent is their key influence in shaping public opinion on this issue?
Ivan Bedrov: Larger media adhere to balanced coverage of the topic with reports from other countries and from Bulgaria. They often invite persons from the refugee community in the country. The problem is that almost all media are tolerant to scandalous, xenophobic and often falsely speaking of some politicians. Through them the hate speech reaches even the audiences of more balanced media.
Biser Petkov: Bulgarian media present refugees as war fleers, who to some extent are a threat to us. But today it’s hard to trust their objectivity. I personally believe that Bulgarian journalism in recent years is not what it was. Along with the development of market and technology unfortunately appeared degradation of performance for both traditional and new media.
Author: Asen Velichkov