2 October 1998


Reaction to draft media law

Incident details

legal action

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - On 1 October 1998 ARTICLE 19 produced a Memorandum on
the Bulgarian Draft Law on National Radio and Television. The Draft Law was
recently vetoed by Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and awaits further
debate in the Bulgarian National Assembly. What follows is a summary of this

**Further to IFEX alerts of 30 September and 2 July 1998**
There are three broad areas of the Bulgarian draft Law on National Radio and
Television of particular concern to ARTICLE 19. They involve illegitimate
restrictions on the content of broadcasts, lack of independence of
broadcasters from state control and measures likely to discourage the
expression of a diversity of views in the broadcast media. ARTICLE 19 urges
those responsible to make appropriate changes to the law to bring it into
harmony with the requirements of international law.

Illegitimate Restrictions on the Content of Broadcasts

ARTICLE 19 recommends that those responsible:

  • Clarify sections 6(3)(3) and 7(4) of the draft Law to ensure that broad
    programming guidelines cannot be used to restrict the content of individual
  • Delete section 7(8) to ensure that the national broadcaster does not
    become the mouthpiece of the State.
  • Amend sections 10(5)&(6) and 16(2) to bring them into conformity with the
    requirements of Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and
    Political Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights
    in relation to "hate speech".
  • Delete sections 11(2)(1)&(2) or amend them to ensure that any restrictions
    on freedom of expression will always be understood as subject to the
    requirements of international law.
  • Include a provision requiring the National Radio and Television Council
    (NRTC) to conduct a consultation exercise and draft a code of conduct for
    the guidance of broadcasters. Such a code may contain a procedure for
    individual complaints against broadcasters.

    Lack of Independence from State Control

    ARTICLE 19 recommends that those responsible:

  • Amend section 24(1) to remove the power of the President to appoint
    members of the National Radio and Television Council.
  • Amend section 24(1) to require at least a two-thirds majority vote in the
    National Assembly for appointment to the National Radio and Television
  • Amend sections 30(2)(1) and 31(5) to clarify the grounds for discharging
    members of the NRTC from office and to ensure that they may only be
    discharged following the unanimous resolution of all other members of the
    Council or by a two thirds majority vote in the National Assembly.

    Measures Likely to Discourage Plurality
    ARTICLE 19 recommends that those responsible:

  • Amend section 3(2) to allow individuals and community groups to apply for
    broadcasting licences.
  • Clarify section 10(9) to ensure that it cannot be used to restrict the
    language of broadcasts to Bulgarian only.
  • Amend sections 25-27 and 61 to promote rather than discourage diversity of
    membership in the NRTC, Bulgarian National Television (BNT), and Bulgarian
    National Radio (BNR).
  • Clarify section 47(2) to ensure that the BNR and BNT do not have a
    monopoly on the production of news or economic and political broadcasts.
  • Delete or amend section 49(2) to ensure that all minority languages in
    Bulgaria may be represented in the broadcast media.
  • Delete section 54 or amend it to remove the monopoly of the Orthodox
    Church, and to provide for religious broadcasts that reflect the principle
    of reasonable access by all religious denominations.

  • Source

    ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
    6-8 Amwell Street
    EC1R 1UQ
    United Kingdom
    info (@) article19.org
    Fax:+44 20 7278 7660
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