Debunking the 'Peevski' myths
The Fake News Factory tirelessly churns out slander against him as if on a conveyor belt
Lyubomira Budakova, Natalia Radoslavova
12 January, 2018
Oligarchs, members of a unique club because of ongoing court cases against them and ownership of struggling businesses, have been trying to undermine the state for the past several years. To facilitate their propaganda attacks, Ivo Prokopiev, Sasho Donchev, Ognyan Donev and Tsvetan Vassilev even created their very own Fake News Factory, whose members are spewing the same talking points and slandering statements as if produced on a conveyer belt. A simple analysis of the topics, on which the cogs of the media manipulation machine are painstakingly working, shows one thing - the main target of most of those is MRF lawmaker and our publisher Delyan Peevski. His name has been dragged into various configurations, from urban legends to outright fabrications. The latter considerably prevail in number.
The reason for this almost clinical obsession is very humdrum - for years, the media outlets in our group have been investigating the illegal schemes of the oligarchy in Bulgaria and exposing their shady deals, supporting every single article with facts and evidence. The criminal bosses vehemently dislike this, because they are used to posing as the country's elite, which, as self-proclaimed and fraudulent as it is, has been
granted protection against the public unmasking of their fraudulent operations.
And this is because until recently the clique controlled almost all media outlets in the country and dictated to journalists, word by word, talking point by talking point, what they should write, who should be taken down and who should be built up on the pages of Capital, Dnevnik, Sega and their other publications.
To make things easier for the Fake News Factory, and also to avoid confusion among its employees, the propaganda machine created a basic list of talking points that must be featured in every single news item about Peevski. They can be disseminated separately or in combinations, but the key thing is for them to be hammered into the public consciousness as often as possible, preferably daily, by the group of publications controlled by the oligarchy. The fact that its statements, in addition to completely fabricated, are easily disproved with simple enquiries and official documents does not seem to bother the media of the behind-the-scenes players. They have seen themselves as the masters of journalism in Bulgaria for years and believe that the privatised media freedom can be used as a tool. And let us not forget that
it is important for a lie to be repeated a hundred times,
so that everyone forgets where it started and whose interests it serves.
Even a cursory look shows that the favourite talking points against Peevski fall into five themes - media monopoly and concentration of publications; a monopoly on the distribution of print media; state and EU funding; complete control and censorship of the media; and causing Bulgaria to plummet in freedom of speech rankings. Every single one of these talking points is a lie and is not based in real facts, and yet they are very important to the Factory and the oligarchs who pull its strings. Why? The answer is simple - the crime bosses are bent on publicly defaming the publications of our media group in order to undermine the reader confidence in us and so effectively silence the truths we are revealing.
The first lie - that Peevski holds a monopoly in the media market - is a foundational piece for the propaganda's purposes and yet disproving it is child's play. A visit to the Commercial Register shows that Peevski owns just one media group, which includes four daily newspapers - Telegraph, Monitor, Meridian Match and the regional Borba (Fight); one weekly - Politika; and one online platform - Monitor Agency. Meanwhile, the National Statistical Institute's data reveal that there are 44 daily and 111 weekly newspapers in the country. Against this backdrop
Peevski's media assets and presence are negligibly small but enough to irritate
the crime bosses. The reason is that Telegraph is the newspaper with the largest circulation in the country, enjoying a number that is astronomical for this part of the world - 130,000. The rest of the group's media outlets, which cover the entire spectrum of interests - from business and politics to sport and entertainment - are also influential and boast serious demand. All of this was bound to worry the self-proclaimed media elite, as the oligarchs in that role detest it when a different voice is being heard, especially if it threatens to expose their shady deals. At the same time, their own publications are either reducing their circulation or completely disappearing from the market due to lack of demand. It is simple - no one wants to get their information from elitist media outlets serving the oligarch's agenda. Meanwhile, confidence in our publications is rising as a result of our significant revelations supported with facts and evidence, and that fact is causing the crime bosses serious anxiety.
And here comes the second lie. In order to explain the readers' almost non-existent demand for their media products, the oligarchs disseminate the following talking point - Peevski has control over the distribution of the press in Bulgaria and that is why their newspapers are vanishing from the newsstands. This absurd lie has also been disproved with evidence multiple times, but let us reiterate once again - Peevski has nothing to do with this. The complaints by employees of the Fake News Factory that their publications could not be found on the market (author's note - like the case with Sasho Donchev's paid cartoonist Hristo Komarnitski, who is acting the part of the publisher of the satirical Prass Press of late) are more than ridiculous. You only have to go round the kiosks in your city to see that the purportedly sabotaged satirical newspaper is on the shelves,
gathering dust because of the lack of interest,
as no one wants to buy it. The free market forces are not helping the oligarchs, who are used to dictate the country's and the citizens' agenda.
And if the previous two talking points are intended to explain the meagre demand for the oligarchs' publications and their failing business operations, the third slandering claim appears inexplicable. In an increasing number of its texts, the Fake News Factory is now arguing that Peevski's publications are supported by EU and state funding, which is an absolute falsehood. It is exactly the opposite - a visit to the national registers shows that while the media outlets in our group have not received a single cent from such sources,
the propaganda machine got over BGN 1m from the EU
and public procurement orders. In fact, the third lie is directly connected to the fourth - that Peevski is censoring and controlling his media outlets and they write only what he wants them to. If any of the pseudo-media analysts in our country ever goes to the trouble of examining the content of our publications, they will quickly realise that there is no topic of social importance that we do not cover. Such freedom cannot be attributed to the media outlets of the oligarchs' propaganda machine. Just days ago, the pharmaceutical tycoon Ognyan Donev openly said that his publications are not allowed to write about anything to do with the drugs sector in the country. This is why the readers of Club Z have no way of learning about the parallel export of pills worth millions, and the mechanisms through which state and municipal hospitals are being robbed through Donev's pharmaceutical tenders. Oligarch Ivo Prokopiev etched his name in history as the first media owner to have ever pledged the editorial policy of his publications in favour of the bank that extended a multimillion loan to him. Besides with his cynical view of journalism as a commodity for sale, he also made headlines with an email he sent to his Economedia employees with detailed instructions whom they should interview and on what topics.
This flagrant example of pseudo-freedom of speech
never appeared in any of the reports on the state of the media in Bulgaria. The explanation is that these so-called independent reports are actually written in the oligarchy's laboratories for public brainwashing.
As they continue to stay obediently mum about the fact that the Factory is working at full capacity to satisfy its owners' propaganda goals, the journalists working for the oligarchs have been methodically eroding our country's position in every possible freedom of speech ranking over the past 10 years. The reason why they are pushing Bulgaria's reputation down the slope so determinedly is clear to see - as they are not able to sully Peevski's name enough with all their propaganda instruments, they try to silence his publications by making him out to be censor №1 in the eyes of the world and the cause for every single problem in the country's media sector. Thanks to these efforts of the oligarchic puppets, Bulgaria is now ranked next to nations like Ghana and Djibouti, in which the problems facing journalists probably have more to do with physical survival. The end game is obvious - to turn free Bulgaria back into a morass in which the oligarchic interests of the media-owning crime bosses will thrive, as they remain comfortably hidden from the justice system behind fake labels such as “elite” and “honest businessmen”. Peevski and his publications present real obstacles to this otherwise “flawless” plan.