Combating fake news in Bulgaria

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A new edition of the Media Literacy Index by the European Policies Initiative (EuPI) of the Open Society Institute has been introduced not so long ago. As you could see in one of our previous articles, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia are the least-resilient countries to “fake news” as the report by the Open Society Institute reveals.

This article will speak about Bulgaria, its ranking and way of combating “fake news”. Bulgaria is ranked 30th out of 35 European nations in the media literacy index for 2021, with Greece (27), Romania (28), Serbia (29), Turkey (31), and Montenegro (32). The Open Society Institute's European Policies Initiative (EuPI) in Sofia developed this research.

As for indicators of media literacy this research used the following:

  1. Press freedom,
  2. Education (PISA scores),
  3. Trust in others, and
  4. E-participation Index.

Bulgaria's negative score, according to observers, is the result of a low level of reading literacy evidenced by PISA evaluations, a bad appraisal of media freedom in international reports by Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders, and a low degree of public trust.

Several legislative measures to limit misinformation and “fake news” were attempted in Bulgaria during the first half of 2020. These attempts have so far been unsuccessful, and they are widely thought to violate Bulgarian law and the Constitution.

The fundamental issue with the present efforts, however, is the failure to define “disinformation” in a way that is not overly wide and ambiguous, and that is consistent with the Bulgarian Constitution, international human rights norms, and EU institutions publications on the subject.

For the time being, none of the three measures that have been introduced have provided a functional legal framework that is compatible with existing laws. Most importantly, neither proposal was in accordance with the Bulgarian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, press freedom, and access to information.

Furthermore, it puts problematic expectations and duties on anybody who posts online or maintains an online platform, by automatically declaring such individual’s data controllers, and, last but not least, by granting the CPDP broad powers to exert excessive control over online material.

Up to which degree “fake news” can be a useful and powerful tool we can see in the following example, for political parties to gain greater power and influence, they simply journalists, or even a whole television network, to manipulating and divide society.

“Who is against you in the network?” is a documentary film by journalist Nadia Obretenova and Nikolay Todorov. The video focuses on children's unethical use of the Internet and social media, as well as the hazards they confront online and how they try to deal with them. The Together Against Misinformation effort brings together non-governmental groups, the media, journalistic organizations, and higher education institutions to develop norms and regulations to combat disinformation and false news, as well as to educate the public about the dangers they pose. The campaign's target audience is students who have already attended a series of lectures organized by the university.

References:

Krusteva, D., & Makshutova, R. (2020, August). Bulgaria: Legislative attempts to restrict disinformation in 2020. Retrieved May 28, 2021, from https://www.dataguidance.com/opinion/bulgaria-legislative-attempts-restrict

Pavlova, M., Botev, H., Kolev, Y., & Daynova, M. (2021, March 24). Media Literacy Index 2021: Bulgarian society among worst equipped to withstand the impact of fake news. Retrieved May 28, 2021, from https://bnr.bg/en/post/101441762/media-literacy-index-2021-bulgarian-society-among-worst-equipped-to-withstand-the-impact-of-fake-news

Кристи, Т. (2020, April 9). Фалшивата борба с фалшивите новини. Retrieved May 28, 2021, from https://bivol.bg/fake-fight-vs-fake-news.html?fbclid=IwAR14TOqm826yyFoMOaHo_KvJqGfe5NTgxJj1v6xT5FgIBqMsdhvfjE6G9uY

Open Your Eyes Website https://openyoureyes.info/en/database/detail/107

Author: Suad Murselović 

Illustration: Ezana Ćeman