FLOURISHING DEMOCRACY

by Stamen Manolov; photography by BTA

As the economic crisis bites further and the current Bulgarian government is unable or unwilling to do anything about it except raise taxes to stifle small and medium-sized enterprises, one commentator remarked, rather cynically, that the Bulgarian government keeps proving one of the greatest American presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was wrong – at least in his lying-to-all-of-the-people-all-of-the-time bit.

boyko borisov_1.jpg

One recent example was the remark made by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov when Bulgaria and the United States approved an agreement to counter serious crime and terrorism.

"Democracy and freedom of speech have been in full bloom in Bulgaria during the past three years with GERB in power," the prime minister said, and added: "The fact that anyone can come to the Council of Ministers and ask Mrs Napolitano whatever questions they like shows not only that democracy is in full bloom, not only that human rights are protected from all sides... and no matter how hard you try, no matter what efforts you make, because of certain contracts you have, to show that we are undemocratic or untransparent, you will fail, owing to the simple reason that you are here in the first place and no one has stage-managed this event... is more than indicative." Saying that, Boyko Borisov smiled thinly at the reporter who had asked the question.

US Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano listened, as did the new American Ambassador, Marcy Ries. Ries had said media freedom would be a priority during her tenure in Bulgaria.

Borisov's statement comes against the background of a Guardian report ranking Bulgaria second highest in terms of human rights violations in the EU, a study by Reporters Without Frontiers that put Bulgaria at rock bottom of media freedom in Europe, and of Freedom House rating Bulgaria after Benin, Namibia and East Timor in terms of media freedom.

"There are countries, also in the EU, where your questions must be asked in advance – one, two, three... while in Bulgaria you can say, write, ask whatever you like! This is supreme democracy and freedom of the media and the people," Boyko Borisov concluded. The quotes above are rendered verbatim.

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