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Bulgaria Table of Contents

Bulgaria

The Media and Public Issues

In the wake of Zhivkov's overthrow, fast-spreading pluralism in the media and intellectual circles brought a din of conflicting opinion to the public. In 1987 Bulgaria had seventeen daily newspapers, most of which were local. By 1991 eight national newspapers were publishing, and an expanding variety of local and weekly papers was available. Until 1990 the chief daily newspaper was Rabotnichesko delo, the official organ of the BCP. After the fall of Zhivkov, the daily was renamed Duma; in its new format, it began to feature more balanced accounts of national problems, reflecting the moderate image now cultivated by its sponsoring organization. The fragmentation of politics in 1990 brought a newspaper boom that included a full spectrum of political views. In 1991 the leading papers by circulation were Duma, Demokratsiya (an independent), the trade union daily Trud, and Zemia, aimed primarily at rural readers. The most popular weeklies were Sturshel, featuring folk humor, and the long-running Pogled. The weekly 168 Chasa went furthest in rejecting traditional Bulgarian journalism in favor of sophisticated parody and Western-style indepth features.

Universities dropped their required study of Marxist-Leninist ideology, and student organizations emerged immediately to assert positions on a wide variety of issues (see Youth Organizations , this ch.). In numerous national polls, the public expressed dissatisfaction with government leaders, economic policies (as both too radical and too conservative), and the BSP. Vestiges of the traditional gap between city and village remained, however: on the average, rural Bulgarians expressed less support for market reform and noncommunist leaders, placed less blame on the communists for current problems, and opposed complete rights for the Turkish minority more strongly.

In 1990-91 the media featured major exposÚs on malfeasance by the Zhivkov regime (acknowledged by the present BSP under public pressure), coverups of radiation exposure from the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant and the Chernobyl' disaster in the Soviet Union, and the murder of Georgi Markov (a full-scale investigation of which opened in 1990). In mid-1991 Bulgaria opened its archives to an international commission investigating the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. In spite of those developments, in 1991 government agencies and individuals still threatened independent publications with court action for "treasonous" statements. In a 1991 poll by the independent 168 chasa, 46 percent of respondents expressed the belief that a campaign had been organized to control the Bulgarian media (the BSP and party officials were most often named responsible), and 37 percent said that freedom of the press was not in danger in Bulgaria.

The Permanent Commission for Human Rights and the National Problem was created in 1990 as an advisory and investigatory agency of the National Assembly. Composed of thirty-nine members of parliament, the commission received the nominal assignment of investigating past and present human rights violations in Bulgaria, recommending appropriate compensation, and drafting new human rights legislation. Among the issues addressed in the commission's first year were restoration of government-confiscated property to churches and Turkish citizens; verifying complaints of unfair sentencing and inhumane prison conditions; proposing laws to replace restrictive legislation such as the Law on Religious Beliefs and the Law on Passports; and erecting legal barriers against state persecution for political reasons (see Religion , ch. 2). In January 1991, commission chairman Svetoslav Shivarov reported that all political prisoners in Bulgaria had been freed.

Data as of June 1992