Good afternoon everyone and thank you for joining me.
I want to first share you my great experience so far today in your country.
Not only did I have productive meetings with your President, Prime Minister and Ministers, but I was highly inspired by a group of students at the Angel Kanchev school here in Sofia. They are involved in eLearning – using technology to make education fun and connect with other schools. This is the future of education, right here in Bulgaria. And I sincerely hope we can see more investment like this. Digital technology making a real difference to people’s lives.
But of course, your main reason for joining me is to discuss the state of the media sector.
It is a great start that so many of you can join for this discussion. It is media freedom and pluralism in action, so to say. I promised in June at a hearing in Brussels (some of you might have been there) that I would come to Bulgaria to get a better picture for myself. Here I am.
My first message is that I am here to listen. I have received many pieces of feedback, including a recent letter from concerned journalists. But I do not pretend that I have arrived at answers, or even that I have powers to take action on all of your concerns. But I understand the desire for a strong referee of media-related disputes. And it is clear to me that when there are obvious examples of violence against journalists, when Reporters Without Borders rates Bulgaria so poorly, that there is an issue worth investigating.
My second message is that there are many factors that contribute to a positive dynamic between media and democracy. It is not always about the law. A country can have a good law – but if it is
i) abused or not enforced, or
ii) there is a culture that encourages forms of self-censorship, or
iii) there is a lack of transparency about how the sector operates, then the law alone cannot solve that problem. On the point of transparency I want to be very clear. I raised the issue of transparency with your Prime Minister today. He agreed with me: there is not enough transparency in Bulgaria concerning both ownership and financing of media in Bulgaria.
I then asked if he would support an effort to increase transparency – he told me I have his full support. And now I come to you, and ask your ideas for how to increase the transparency. Please: concrete ideas on how to increase transparency.
My third and final message is that as media diversify – and the digital world helps to create a more diverse media – they becomes more trusted and valued. Make sure to use the full potential of digital media to spread your reports and opinions.
So I would like to hear all your thoughts on those ideas and the current state of media in Bulgaria.